July 2011 Archives


Federal appeals court rules county board meeting prayers violated First Amendment
Dan Taglioli on July 31, 2011 4:16 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] a ruling by a federal district court that the Forsyth County, North Carolina, Board of Commissioners [official website] violated the First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] by beginning its public meetings with sectarian prayer. The lawsuit against the county was originally filed by three residents who felt that "the Board's legislative prayer policy did in fact violate the Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment] by advancing and endorsing Christianity to the exclusion of other faiths." While the Board had no official written policy concerning prayer prior to the suit being filed in 2007, for years it began its twice-monthly meetings with an invocation delivered by a local religious leader who was invited on a volunteer first-come, first-serve basis. The meetings in question are open to and attended by many of the county's approximately 350,000 residents. The invocation given at each meeting preceded the Pledge of Allegiance and nearly always included references to specific tenets of Christianity. Claiming to have attended or watched several Board meetings, the plaintiffs in the case requested and won both a declaratory judgment that the Board's sponsorship of sectarian prayers violated the Establishment Clause, and an injunction precluding sectarian prayers from future Board meetings. The 2-1 appellate decision was delivered in a lengthy analysis of the relevant facts and law, concluding,
To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord. ... That the Board and religious leaders in Forsyth County hold steadfast to their faith is certainly no cause for condemnation. But where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance. The policy here, as implemented, upsets the careful balance the First Amendment seeks to bring about.
Soon after the suit was filed, the Board formalized its policy, codifying past practice but removing the invocation as an agenda item. The Board also clarified its policy goal that the hands-off approach toward booking the invocations is an expression of the Board's respect for the county's various denominations and faiths. The court found that in the year before the suit was filed at least half of the invocations concluded with references to Jesus. Audio recordings confirm that after the Board implemented the new policy "almost four-fifths of the prayers referred to 'Jesus,' 'Jesus Christ,' 'Christ,' or 'Savior.' ... None of the prayers mentioned non-Christian deities."

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in June that the New York City Department of Education [official website] can enforce a rule prohibiting outside groups from using school facilities for after-school worship services. In April, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff [official website] petitioned [JURIST report] the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] to decide whether crosses placed beside highways as memorials to deceased Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) [official website] troopers is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. The petition seeks review of an August 2010 ruling [JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website], which found that "the cross memorials would convey to a reasonable observer that the state of Utah is endorsing Christianity." Also last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a constitutional challenge to the National Day of Prayer (NDP) [official website], overturning an earlier lower court decision [JURIST report] that found the event in violation of the Establishment Clause by representing government-backed encouragement that Americans engage in non-secular activity.




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

Florida Secretary of State requests approval of election laws in DC court
Jennie Ryan on July 31, 2011 12:24 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning [official website] on Friday announced [press release] that he is seeking approval of portions of the state's new election law in a federal court in Washington, DC. In June, Florida officials filed an application with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] seeking approval of the law. Browning has withdrawn four sections of the law [Palm Beach Post report] from consideration before the DOJ. The withdrawn sections are considered to be the most controversial sections of the law. Five Florida counties require federal approval before they can administer the laws known as HB 1355 [materials]. According to Browning,
The purpose of filing in the federal district court is to ensure that the changes to Florida's election law are judged on their merits by eliminating the risk of a ruling impacted by outside influence . . . Since the passage of HB 1355, we have seen misinformation surrounding the bill increase. By asking a court to rule on certain aspects of the bill, we are assured of a neutral evaluation based on the facts.
Browning is seeking a declaratory judgment from the federal court that the changes to the Florida Election Code [materials] comply with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text]. Under the VRA, the changes may not deny or abridge the right to vote based on race, color or membership in a language minority.

The Florida House of Representatives [official website] in May voted [JURIST report] 77-38 to pass the controversial legislation revising the state's election laws, only hours after the Senate [official website] did so by a 25-13 margin. The bill limits the window for early voting to one week prior to an election, and imposes a series of additional regulations on organizations that enlist new voters, including that they register with the state, submit periodic reports and file voter registration materials within 48 hours of completion. Opponents to the legislation charge that its design is politically motivated to disproportionately affect Democratic constituencies, though its supporters argue that the measures are intended only to reduce election-related expenses and voter fraud. In June, the Florida American Civil Liberties Union [official website] filed suit challenging the election [JURIST report] law changes because they believe it will affect the voting ability of minorities.




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

Federal judge declares Florida controlled substance law unconstitutional
Ashley Hileman on July 31, 2011 12:03 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A federal judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida [official website] has declared [order, PDF] the state's controlled-substances laws, which criminalize the "unknowing" possession of a controlled substance, unconstitutional. The decision, issued on Wednesday, stems from a petition for federal habeas corpus relief filed by Mackle Shelton, which included a claim that Florida's Drug Abuse and Prevention statute [§ 893.13, text] is "facially unconstitutional because it entirely eliminates mens rea as an element of a drug offense and creates a strict liability offense under which [Shelton] was sentenced to eighteen years in prison." The law was amended to its current form in 2002, making Florida the only state to have eliminated mens rea as an element of a drug offense. In her order, Judge Mary Scriven discussed a number of reasons why the law violated due process, writing:
Florida's strict liability drug statute also runs afoul of due process limits when viewed from the perspective of the nature of the activity regulated. Where laws proscribe conduct that is neither inherently dangerous nor likely to be regulated, the Supreme Court has consistently either invalidated them or construed them to require proof of mens rea in order to avoid criminalizing "a broad range of apparently innocent conduct." Under this reasoning, not even a small criminal penalty may constitutionally be imposed without proof of guilty knowledge where the conduct at issue includes a wide array of innocuous behavior or behavior not inherently likely to be regulated."

The state is expected to appeal [NYT report] the decision as it may affect hundreds of convictions as well as other pending cases.

Florida continues to see challenges to its seemingly harsh drug-related rules. Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLUFL) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging an executive order that mandates state government agencies provide pre-employment drug screening for all prospective employees and provide for random drug testing of all current agency employees regardless of classification. Governor Rick Scott [official website] issued Executive Order 11-58 [text, PDF] in March and directed the drug testing policy to go into effect by May 21, 2011. The complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website] on behalf of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 79 (AFSCME) [union website], a union representing 50,000 public workers affected by the order. In the complaint, the ACLUFL argues that the order violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable governmental searches and case law stating that drug-testing without suspicion is unreasonable except under certain circumstances, such as when employees are involved in "safety-sensitive" positions. The ACLUFL points out that the governor's reasoning behind the order was not to promote safety, but to exert control over employees in order to maintain discipline and lessen absenteeism.




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

Michigan AG appeals decision overturning affirmative action ban
Jennie Ryan on July 31, 2011 11:44 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette [official website] on Friday appealed a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] overturning the state's affirmative action ban. Proposal 2 [text; JURIST news archive], an amendment to the Michigan Constitution [text, PDF], bans affirmative action in public employment, public education and state contracting. Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that Proposal 2 was unconstitutional [JURIST report] because it unduly burdens minorities by abusing a political process where minorities are likely to have no redress. In his official statement announcing [press release] he would appeal the court's ruling, Schuette said Proposal 2:
[E]mbodies the fundamental premise of what America is all about: equal opportunity under the law. . . Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit. Today we will continue the fight for quality, fairness and the rule of law. . . It's absurd to conclude that banning racial discrimination somehow perpetuates racial discrimination. It simply defies common sense.
Schutte appealed the ruling by making a formal request [Reuters report] to the Sixth Circuit for a rehearing en banc in front of the full 16 member court. He is arguing for rehearing under the premise that the current decision conflicts with prior decisions of the court.

The Sixth Circuit's ruling reversed a 2008 decision by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] to dismiss the challenge [JURIST report] with prejudice. District Court Judge David Lawson had found that Proposal 2 was "facially neutral" regarding racial discrimination and did not violate the US Constitution. Michigan voters approved [JURIST report] the constitutional amendment in November 2006, and it was initially expected to take effect in late December 2006. In December 2006, a federal judge ruled that the universities could delay implementing the proposal [JURIST report] until the they had completed the 2006-2007 admission cycle under current procedures, but that order was later stayed [opinion, PDF] by the Sixth Circuit. The US Supreme Court [official website] declined [JURIST report] to consider whether the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University could delay implementing Proposal 2 in early 2007.




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

Federal appeals court allows patents of human genes
Andrea Bottorff on July 31, 2011 11:18 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] on Friday ruled 2-1 [opinion, PDF] that patents held on two genes linked to hereditary ovarian and breast cancer are valid. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) [advocacy websites] originally filed [JURIST report] the suit on behalf of patients and scientists challenging patents held by Myriad Genetics [corporate website] on the BCRA genes [NCI backgrounder]. Myriad Genetics appealed the lower court decision that found the patents to be invalid [JURIST report]. Federal Appeals Judge Alan Lourie [official profile] wrote in the majority opinion:
The ability to visualize a DNA molecule through a microscope, or by any other means, when it is bonded to other genetic material, is worlds apart from possessing an isolated DNA molecule that is in hand and usable. It is the difference between knowledge of nature and reducing a portion of nature to concrete form, the latter activity being what the patent laws seek to encourage and protect.
The majority, however, ruled that Myriad Genetics may not patent its method of determining whether a gene had mutations because the analysis consists of non-patentable "abstract mental steps." The case may appear before the Supreme Court if appealed.

The court's decision countered the position held by the Obama administration, which submitted an amicus curie brief [text, PDF] in support of the ACLU and PUBPAT. Nevertheless, the US Patent and Trademark Office [official website] has issued patents for genes for decades. Such patents cover nearly 2,000 human genes and genetic research companies hold patents to approximately 20 percent of the human genetic code. Many of the patented genes are associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer. Supporters of the decision argue that restricting patents on human genes would decrease the amount of genetic research performed by the public sector because it would no longer be profitable for companies to study human genes. Currently, the holder of a gene patent can prevent others from studying the gene and can also develop testing for specific genetic mutations, which they can then market without direct competition.




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

Mubarak trial to be held at new location outside Cairo
Andrea Bottorff on July 31, 2011 10:32 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] will be held at a police academy located on the outer border of Cairo, an Egyptian judge announced Saturday. Officials chose the new location for the added security [AP report], after reporting [JURIST report] Thursday that the trial would take place at a convention center in downtown Cairo. Mubarak faces several charges [JURIST report], including murder, attempted killing of protesters and other charges related to general abuse of power [Al Jazeera report], as a result of his response to pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt [JURIST news archive] earlier this year. Mubarak will face trial with his two sons, six deputies and a businessman who also face corruption charges. The trial date for Mubarak is set for August 3 in front of the Cairo Criminal Court [JURIST report]. The judge heading the court has promised a speedy trial [AFP report] and will allow the proceedings to air on national television.

Last week, an Egyptian criminal court postponed the trial [JURIST report] of former interior minister Habib el-Adly, who also faces murder charges in relation to the pro-democracy demonstrations, until August 3. Mubarak was hospitalized in April [JURIST report], just days before he was scheduled to appear before Egypt's public prosecutor for questioning about his alleged roles in protester deaths and embezzlement of government money. In March, a commission of Arab and Egyptian human rights groups accused Mubarak [JURIST report] and the police of murdering protesters during the demonstrations in Egypt. Mubarak could face the death penalty [JURIST report] if convicted of ordering attacks on protesters. Rights group Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] has reported that at least 840 people were killed [JURIST report], and more than 6,000 were injured, during the Egyptian protests.




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

EPA releases new standards for drilling operations
Julia Zebley on July 30, 2011 8:00 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] introduced [press release] a proposal of new regulations [materials] on Thursday to reduce the air pollution left from gas and oil drilling operations. The new standards are updated to include wells that are hydraulically fractured as well as several other technological advancements that cause pollution. The proposal will update four sets of regulations, some that have not been updated since 1985: the New Source Performance Standards, Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) [texts] standards, as well as updating two regulations that apply to glycol dehydrators. If enacted, the proposal is estimated to save $30 million by being able to conserve methane gas more effectively.
Today's proposal would cut smog-forming volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from several types of processes and equipment used in the oil and gas industry, including a 95 percent reduction in VOCs emitted during the completion of new and modified hydraulically fractured wells. This dramatic reduction would largely be accomplished by capturing natural gas that currently escapes to the air and making that gas available for sale through technologies and processes already in use by several companies and required in some states.
The proposal is on a court mandate from January 2009, when the EPA settled a suit [complaint text, PDF] brought by WildEarth Guardians and San Juan Citizens Alliance [advocacy websites]. The suit alleged that the EPA was not protecting people from the harmful air pollutants released by gas and oil drilling, and what little regulations they had in place were outdated. WildEarth Guardians announced their approval [press release] of the new measures, saying: "This proposed protection would help reign in life-threatening pollution from gas drilling for the first time and is a significant step forward in cleaning up a dirty industry." The proposal will undergo three public hearings in Dallas, Texas, Denver, Colorado and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The finals rules must be published by February 28, 2012, under court order.

The EPA has made several efforts at containing air pollution. In March, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] upheld the EPA's approval of caps on motor vehicle emissions in California [JURIST report]. The year before, the EPA proposed stricter smog standards [JURIST report] that would replace the Bush administration's broader 2008 national smog regulations [text], complying with scientific recommendations. In 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] vacated a 2006 EPA rule [JURIST report] prohibiting state and local governments from monitoring air pollution below acceptable levels set by the EPA for "stationary" sources such as power plants and factories. The court wrote that the rule violated Title V of the Clean Air Act [text] because the EPA's monitoring protocols themselves violated the Act, and because the rule prevented state and local governments from making up for its shortcomings.




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

Federal judge allows Lehman Brothers lawsuit to proceed
Maureen Cosgrove on July 29, 2011 12:40 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] that most claims in a lawsuit against former Lehman Brothers Holdings [corporate website] officials could proceed. The plaintiffs, a group of investors, contend that Lehman's former officers, directors, and auditors, as well as security underwriters acted in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [texts, PDF]. The former officers allegedly made oral statements and published materials and prospectuses containing misleading and false information about the transactions that took place at the company. The investors incurred losses when Lehman went bankrupt in 2008. US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] Judge Lewis Kaplan allowed a majority of the claims to proceed, but determined that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue with respect to fifty principal protection notes (PPNs), a type of structured security. Kaplan also dismissed several of the plaintiffs' claims against Ernst & Young LLP [corporate website], Lehman's independent auditor, but rejected the defendant's motion to dismiss claims that Ernst & Young knew that Lehman was using repurchasing agreements. The plaintiffs are also seeking certification [WSJ report] as a class action.

Lehman Brothers Holdings filed suit [complaint, PDF] against JPMorgan Chase & Co. [corporate website] in May 2010 for allegedly "siphoning" off billions of dollars [JURIST report] in "critically-needed" assets days before the investment bank filed for a record-breaking bankruptcy. Former Lehman Brothers Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Fuld, a defendant in the investors' lawsuit, called for a new regulatory scheme [JURIST report] for financial firms during testimony before the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [committee website] in October 2008. Fuld answered questions regarding Lehman Brother's role in the financial crisis and the the high levels of executive compensation at the firm in the run-up to its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing [bankruptcy petition, PDF; affidavit, PDF] and disputed lawmakers' suggestions that Lehman Brothers managers defrauded investors by making public statements at odds with Lehman's internal financial health.




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

Canada Supreme Court rules against tobacco industry in two major cases
Julia Zebley on July 29, 2011 12:04 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] issued rulings in two major tobacco products cases Friday relieving the federal government of liability for tobacco-related health problems and allowing the provinces to sue the tobacco industry for damages for tobacco-related health care costs. The court ruled [text; materials] unanimously on Friday in R. v. Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. that the federal government is not liable for any tobacco-related death or illness. Citizens filed suit against Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. [corporate website] for causing their illnesses by improper advertising of "light" and "mild" cigarettes as healthier alternatives. Imperial Tobacco impleaded the federal government, alleging that if tobacco companies are held liable, Canada must also be liable for allowing misrepresentation and negligent design to occur, and claimed that Canada was also a manufacturer under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act and the Trade Practices Act [texts]. The Supreme Court rejected these arguments:
Here, on the facts as pleaded, Canada did not owe a prima facie duty of care to consumers. The relationship between the two was limited to Canada's statements to the general public that low-tar cigarettes are less hazardous. There were no specific interactions between Canada and the class members. Consequently, a finding of proximity in this relationship must arise from the governing statutes. However, the relevant statutes establish only general duties to the public, and no private law duties to consumers. ... As for the tobacco companies, the facts pleaded allege a history of interactions between Canada and the tobacco companies capable of establishing a special relationship of proximity giving rise to a prima facie duty of care. ... Canada's alleged negligent misrepresentations do not give rise to tort liability, however, because of conflicting policy considerations. The alleged representations constitute protected expressions of government policy. Core government policy decisions protected from suit are decisions as to a course or principle of action that are based on public policy considerations, such as economic, social and political factors, provided they are neither irrational nor taken in bad faith. The representations in this case were part and parcel of a government policy, adopted at the highest level in the Canadian government and developed out of concern for the health of Canadians and the individual and institutional costs associated with tobacco-related disease, to encourage people who continued to smoke to switch to low-tar cigarettes.
Although the Canadian government had encouraged the making of light cigarettes to reduce tobacco-related illnesses, the Court rejected that as proof of culpability. Imperial Tobacco has not commented [Reuters report] on the ruling.

In the same opinion on Friday, the Supreme Court ruled [materials] in Attorney General of Canada v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of British Columbia that individual provinces are able to sue tobacco companies for damages to offset the cost of treating tobacco-related illnesses. In 2001, British Columbia attempted to recover funds from 14 tobacco companies that the government had spent paying for medical care of those afflicted with tobacco-related illnesses. They based their claim on the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act (CRA) [text], which makes tobacco manufacturers liable to the provinces for health care costs. As Canada has national healthcare, each province bears the cost of their citizens' medical bills. In this case as well, the appealing tobacco industries alleged that Canada is also a manufacturer and supplier of cigarettes and this preempts their liability. The Court refuted this understanding.

I conclude that Canada is not a manufacturer under the Act. Indeed, holding Canada accountable under the CRA would defeat the legislature's intention of transferring the health-care costs resulting from tobacco related wrongs from taxpayers to the tobacco industry. This conclusion makes it unnecessary to consider Canada's arguments that it would in any event be immune from liability under the provincial Act.
The Court allowed British Columbia's claim against several tobacco companies to proceed, but did not rule on the merits of it. This has opened the door for suits from all the provinces worth potentially billions of dollars of damages against the tobacco industry.




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

Mumbai terror attack gunman appeals death sentence
Maureen Cosgrove on July 29, 2011 10:35 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Pakistani national Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab [NDTV profile], convicted [JURIST report] in May 2010 for murder and waging war against India for his role in the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that killed 166, filed an appeal Friday challenging his death sentence. Prosecutors had accused Kasab of being one of the gunmen photographed during the attacks, which were 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. In February, an Indian appeals court upheld Kasab's conviction and death sentence [JURIST report]. In January 2010, a judge denied [JURIST report] Kasab's request for an international trial after Kasab claimed that he would not receive a fair trial in India. Two alleged Indian accomplices tried with Kasab were acquitted on all charges of helping to plan the attacks. Kasab is the only surviving gunman from the Mumbai attacks.

Suspects connected to the Mumbai terror attacks continue to face arrest and prosecution. In March, US citizen and Chicago resident David Headley pleaded guilty [press release; JURIST report] to 12 counts of federal terrorism stemming from the Mumbai terror attacks and a terror incident in Copenhagen. A federal jury acquitted Tahawwur Hussain Rana [JURIST report], a Chicago resident with Canadian citizenship, of participating in the Mumbai terror attacks in June, but convicted him on two counts of planning to attack a Copenhagen newspaper after Headley testified at his trial. In December, Spanish authorities arrested seven men [JURIST report], including six Pakistanis and one Nigerian, in Barcelona suspected of aiding in the Mumbai terror attacks by allegedly stealing passports and other identification documents belonging to male tourists between the ages of 20 and 30, then sending the documents to Thailand where they would be forged and then forwarded to terrorist groups. India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) announced [JURIST report] in October that it has secured INTERPOL [official website] red notices [official backgrounder] for five Pakistani citizens, including two military officials, for their suspected involvement in the attacks.




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

North Carolina Senate overrides veto on abortion waiting period bill
Maureen Cosgrove on July 29, 2011 9:30 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The North Carolina Senate [official website] Thursday voted 29-19 to override a veto [roll call vote] by Governor Beverly Perdue [official website] on legislation [HB 854 materials] that would require a 24-hour waiting period before receiving an abortion [JURIST news archive]. The vote means the legislation will become North Carolina law as the House of Representatives [official website] also voted to override the veto [JURIST report] on Tuesday with a 72-47 vote [News-Record report]. The measure, known as the "Women's Right to Know Act," would require a physician to provide information to the woman regarding gestation, the risks of abortion procedures, abortion alternatives and federal medical benefits available. The law also requires women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of the fetus prior to the procedure. Senator Martin Nesbitt (D) called the law "draconian" [Citizen Times report] and said women seeking abortions will face dramatic changes once the law takes effect, while supporters contend that the new law will give women the opportunity to "know all the facts" about abortion. The legislation, which had originally passed the House 71-48 and the Senate 29-20, will take effect in 90 days.

The North Carolina government is one of several state legislatures to have acted recently to limit abortion rights. Both Texas and Florida [JURIST reports] have recently passed bills requiring ultrasounds before abortions. Last month, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit challenging the Texas law [JURIST report]. In March, South Dakota passed a law requiring a three-day waiting period [JURIST report] before an abortion—the longest waiting period in the country. That law is also facing a court challenge [JURIST report]. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].




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

New Mexico Supreme Court allows environmental groups to intervene in emissions hearing
Zach Zagger on July 29, 2011 9:29 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The New Mexico Supreme Court [official website] ruled unanimously Wednesday that environmental groups may intervene in state administrative hearings over greenhouse gas emissions standards. New Energy Economy (NEE) [advocacy website], a non-profit organization working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sought to intervene in a hearing before the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) [official website] to defend regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The EIB is already considering petitions from opponents of the regulations [text, PDF]. New Energy Economy, represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) [advocacy website], argued [AP report] that it was necessary to have a party to defend the law before the board to maintain the adversarial system. The court ruled [press release] that since NEE was a party to the original proceedings before the EIB it should be granted the right to defend it in this appeal. The executive director of NEE, Mariel Nanasi, lauded [press release] the decision: "We are pleased that the Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. The Court's decision upholds the rule of law against special interests and their lobbyists. We now look forward to defending the carbon pollution reduction rule based on its economic and scientific merits."

California has encountered similar difficulties passing greenhouse gas emissions standards. In March, the San Francisco Superior Court [official website] delayed the implementation of a cap-and-trade program [JURIST report] by requiring California's Air Resources Board (ARB) [official website] to further analyze alternatives. While the court's decision did not officially preclude the ARB from adopting or implementing the program in the future, it delayed the process as the ARB will now have to conduct additional research on other available options and report back as to why the cap-and-trade program is superior as well as invite public comment on the issue. Earlier this year, Texas failed for the third time in two months [JURIST report] at its attempts to block new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia [official website] denied the state's request to block the program, which allocates greenhouse gas emission permits under the Clean Air Act [materials].




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

Appeals court hears arguments over RI denial to hand suspect to federal custody
Julia Zebley on July 29, 2011 8:59 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Attorneys argued [oral arguments audio file, MP3] before the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] Thursday that Rhode Island is not obligated to turn over alleged murderer Jason Pleau to federal prosecutors in an effort to prevent him from facing the death penalty in federal court. Rhode Island has had a longstanding rejection of the death penalty. Pleau's attorneys claimed [Providence Journal report] that the federal government does not have the jurisdiction to detain Pleau after Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee [official website] refused to surrender him on June 23. Federal prosecutors' ability to seize Pleau is codified by the Interstate Agreement on Detainers [text], but that law allows state governors to refuse to transfer prisoners to federal custody: "the Governor of the sending State may disapprove the request for temporary custody or availability, either upon his own motion or upon motion of the prisoner." The US District Court for the District of Rhode Island [official website] ordered Chafee to turn Pleau over to federal agents on June 30. Chafee said he would comply, but Pleau's attorneys appealed to the First Circuit, at which point Chafee filed an amicus brief [The Call report]. Donald Lockhart, for the US Attorney's Office [official website], argued that the Interstate Agreement on Detainers is pre-empted by the District Court's order, and that the Governor's office has no standing in the case. Lockhart stressed urgency and asked that the three-judge panel rule on the issue as soon as possible. Although the panel let Chafee personally argue on behalf of Pleau, they stressed that he must officially intervene to continue his role in the case. After the hearing, Chafee filed a motion to intervene [AP report], claiming that he has standing to protect his state's sovereignty. The US Attorneys Office plans to challenge this motion. Chafee has also stated that he will appeal to the US Supreme Court if necessary.

Pleau was sentenced to 18 years in prison [The Call report] for violating his probation after being accused of killing a gas station attendant in the process of a robbery. No state charges were filed [The Call report], as Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin [official website] decided that the US Attorney's Office had jurisdiction for the crime beyond the probation violation. However, should federal proceedings not occur, Pleau has agreed to plead guilty and accept a life sentence [Boston.com report] without the possibility of parole. Rhode Island was one of the first states to abolish the death penalty, abolishing it in 1852. After becoming a state, Rhode Island has only executed seven people, including John Gordon in 1845, who Chafee recently pardoned [press release], delivering a statement on his stance on the death penalty: "John Gordon’s wrongful execution was a major factor in Rhode Island’s abolition of and longstanding opposition to the death penalty. ... as we pardon John Gordon, we also recognize and uphold that commitment."




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

Attorneys file civil suit against NATO for Libya air strike
Maureen Cosgrove on July 28, 2011 3:05 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A group of attorneys filed a civil lawsuit in Belgium against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO [official website] Thursday alleging it is responsible for killing 13 civilians in a bombing of a residential compound in Libya. The complaint was filed [AP report] on behalf of retired Libyan general and member of Libya's Revolutionary Council, Khalid el Hamidi, whose three children were killed and home was destroyed during an air strike on June 20. Marcel Ceccaldi, an attorney representing Hamidi, said that civil cases against NATO fall under Belgium jurisdiction. NATO benefits from diplomatic immunity from criminal cases given its status as an international organization. NATO has acknowledged targeting the area, but justified the attack, calling the compound a "command and control" center. The plaintiffs contend that the air strike violated the Geneva Convention [ICRC materials] rules of war because the targeted area was a residential compound. Ceccaldi also urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate the alleged war crime, suggesting the case would be a good opportunity for the ICC to restore credibility.

The ICC issued arrest warrants [decision, PDF; JURIST report] against Libyan leader Mummar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and two of his high-ranking officials in June. ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official website] said his office had gathered "direct evidence" [JURIST report] that shows Gaddafi personally ordered attacks on civilian protesters, that his forces used live ammunition on crowds, attacked civilians in their homes, used heavy weapons against people in funeral processions and placed snipers to shoot those leaving mosques after prayer services. Moreno-Ocampo announced [JURIST report] in May that his office was pursuing arrest warrants against Gaddafi and the two others in his inner circle. There have been numerous allegations of war crimes and human rights violations over the Libyan revolt. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], after an investigative panel, published a 92-page report on human righsts abuses in Libya, decided to extend its mandate [JURIST reports], instructing it to continue investigating allegations. The report claims Libyan authorities have committed varying crimes against humanity "as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack."




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

San Francisco judge rules circumcision ban cannot appear on ballot
Julia Zebley on July 28, 2011 2:45 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the Superior Court of San Francisco [official website] ruled in Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco v. Arntz [materials] on Thursday that a San Francisco public referendum to ban circumcision cannot appear on the ballot in November. The Male Genital Mutilitation bill [text] would have made male circumcision illegal in San Francisco if the recipient is under the age of 18, with perpetrators penalized by a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment. Male circumcision is a religious practice in both Judaism and Islam, so there was an immediate protest to the initiative. Judge Loretta Giorgi ruled [Bloomberg report] against the referendum, stating that it served no legitimate purpose since it is pre-empted and thus prohibited by California's Business and Professions Code [text], which prohibits regulation of medical services. Giorgi also stated that a ban would violate the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. A spokesperson for the Jewish Community Relations Council [advocacy website] told the San Francisco Chronicle [report] that the group is delighted the measure will not appear on the ballot.

Supporters of outlawing male circumcision have pressed forward elsewhere in the US. MGMBill.org [advocacy website] is devoted to submitting legislation to ban the practice, and currently has bills pending in the Federal government as well as 46 states. Advocates for ending male circumcision believe it is a painful and archaic procedure that nets no benefits to the circumcised male. They frequently compare the practice to female genital mutilation, which is illegal under Title 18 [text] of the US Code.




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

Mubarak trial to be held in Cairo
Maureen Cosgrove on July 28, 2011 1:26 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] will be held in Cairo, a senior official said Thursday. The announcement comes amid speculation [Reuters report] that the trial would be held at a Red Sea resort because of Mubarak's alleged poor health. Many Egyptians contend that Mubarak is not ill and that members of the government have claimed the ex-president is sick in an effort to avoid a swift, public trial. Mubarak faces several charges [JURIST report], including murder, attempted killing of protesters and other charges related to general abuse of power [Al Jazeera report], as a result of his response to pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt [JURIST news archive] earlier this year. The trial date for Mubarak is set for August 3 at the Cairo Criminal Court [MENA report; JURIST report].

Earlier this week, an Egyptian criminal court postponed the trial [JURIST report] of former interior minister Habib el-Adly, who also faces murder charges in relation to the pro-democracy demonstrations, until August 3. Mubarak was hospitalized in April [JURIST report], just days before he was scheduled to appear before Egypt's public prosecutor for questioning about his alleged roles in protester deaths and embezzlement of government money. In March, a commission of Arab and Egyptian human rights groups accused Mubarak [JURIST report] and the police of murdering protesters during the demonstrations in Egypt. Mubarak could face the death penalty [JURIST report] if convicted of ordering attacks on protesters. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported that at least 840 people were killed [JURIST report], and more than 6,000 were injured, during the Egyptian protests.




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

UK panel to investigate whether country needs tougher media regulations
Julia Zebley on July 28, 2011 12:48 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UK Lord Justice Brian Leveson [Guardian profile], head of an investigative panel into the recent media phone hacking scandal, said at a press conference Thursday that the panel will investigate the overall "culture, practices and ethics of the press." Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced earlier this month [speech transcript] the seven-member panel to investigate journalism practices in the nation. Leveson said the panel will investigate the media and reporters' relationship with police and politicians, as well as the tactics media agents use to get information. A report, with any recommendations for reform, will be published in a year. Leveson gave more details on the panel's role and powers Thursday, emphasizing that the panel will be calling witnesses and seeking "relevant documents." Leveson said that although he has the power to compel production of files of "inappropriate" practices, he would prefer editors and journalists to cooperate with his inquiry and volunteer information.

In addition to print media journalists, the panel will also investigate public broadcasters and bloggers. Leveson and his panel is empowered by the Inquiries Act of 2005 [materials]. The panel consists of Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty; George Jones, former Daily Telegraph political editor; Sir David Bell, former chairman of the Financial Times; Elinor Goodman, former Channel 4 political editor; Lord David Currie, former chairman of Ofcom; and Sir Paul Scott-Lee, former West Midlands chief constable. Hearings are set to begin in September.

Cameron created the panel after the recent allegations of "phone hacking" surfaced in the British media. Reports allege that journalists for the now-defunct British tabloid, News of the World [media website], a News Corporation (News Corp.) [media website] subsidiary, paid London police officers for private information, including telephone records, to use in various news stories, as well as hiring private investigators to "hack" into voicemail inboxes of notable people. Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International (NI) and former editor of News of the World [media websites], was arrested [JURIST report] earlier this month by UK police on charges related to the scandal. She was questioned and released on bail hours later. Brooks was editor of News of the World from 2000 to 2003 when the phone of murdered teen Amanda Dowler was allegedly hacked. Brooks, along with a number of high-ranking executives and journalists, have been arrested in relation to phone hacking allegations. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] will open an inquiry [JURIST report] into whether journalists working for News Corp. and its subsidiaries violated US laws by hacking into the mobile phones of 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] victims. Read more about the scandal in the JURIST op-ed Recent Scandal One in a Series of Legal Issues for News Corp [JURIST op-ed] by Dave Saldana [official profile], Communications Director at Free Press [advocacy website].




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

UK high court to hear British nuclear test veterans suit
Maureen Cosgrove on July 28, 2011 12:34 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UK Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday granted leave of appeal in Ministry of Defence v. AB [docket] to British former servicemen seeking compensation for illnesses resulting from participating in nuclear weapons testing. The veterans are seeking to overturn [BBC report] a 2009 High Court ruling [judgment, PDF] that denied the men compensation for the adverse health consequences allegedly resulting from exposure to radiation. The men claim that between October 1952 and September 1958, the British government performed nuclear weapons testing in Australia and on Christmas Island, and that the radiation exposure from those tests caused illnesses including cancers, skin defects and birth defects in their children. The lower court ruled that 9 of the 10 lead cases were barred by the statute of limitations. The defendant, UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website], contends that the group of over 1,000 veterans will not be able to show that the radiation caused their illnesses. The High Court will hear arguments for damages later this year.

Victims of radiation exposure have sought compensation on numerous occasions. In 2009, the Tokyo High Court granted an appeal [JURIST report] to consider 30 people for official recognition as atomic bomb victims resulting from the US atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945. Earlier that same year, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] affirmed the dismissal [opinion, PDF] of complaints brought by the inhabitants and descendants of the Bikini and Enewetak Atolls seeking further compensation arising out of bomb testing in the 1940s and 1950s. In 2006, a British veteran received £ 40,000 [BBC report] from the US under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act [materials text] for his involvement in the allied British-US testing. The MOD did not compensate him due to a lack of evidence connecting the tests to the illness.




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

TMLC petitions Supreme Court over Sixth Circuit ruling in favor of PPACA
Maureen Cosgrove on July 28, 2011 11:05 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) [advocacy website] on Wednesday filed [press release] a petition for writ of certiorari [text, PDF] in the US Supreme Court [official website] asking for review of an appeals court ruling declaring the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [HR 3590 text; JURIST Feature] constitutional. The petition comes in response to a June ruling [JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] finding PPACA's individual mandate provision constitutional. TMLC, along with four individual plaintiffs, seek a declaration that Congress lacks authority under the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] to pass such a law. The plaintiffs contend that the individual mandate provision falls outside the regulation of "economic activity," and is therefore not authorized by the Commerce Clause:
The Act does not regulate economic activity, but rather the decision to not engage in commercial or economic activity. Consequently, the Act does not even pretend to fit within any of the Court’s previous Commerce Clause rulings. The individual mandate attaches to a legal resident of the United States who chooses to sit at home and do nothing. This resident, quite literally, merely exists (i.e., he is “living” and “breathing”). He or she is neither engaged in economic activity nor in any other activity that would bring him or her within the reach of even a legitimate regulatory scheme.
The group says that "review is necessary to establish a meaningful limitation on congressional power." The TMLC lawsuit is the first PPACA challenge to petition the Supreme Court out of the many lawsuits in the circuit courts.

Similar cases challenging the constitutionality of PPACA are being heard in federal courts across the nation. In June, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] heard arguments [JURIST report] regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Earlier in June, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] heard arguments [JURIST report] concerning the mandate's constitutionality. The appeal was brought by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] after the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] struck down the entire health care law because the individual mandate exceeds Congress's authority [JURIST report] under the Commerce Clause. Also last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] decided it could rule on two challenges to PPACA after the court requested briefs [JURIST report] from all parties on whether the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) [text], which prevents injunctions against taxes before the tax is imposed, would bar review of PPACA until it is implemented. The Fourth Circuit already heard arguments [JURIST report] in May to resolve a split decision between the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruling against the individual mandate and the Western District of Virginia dismissing a challenge [JURIST reports] of the law.

For more, see JURIST's Feature on Health Care Reform.




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

Federal court hears oral arguments over grassroots organization campaign contributions
Zach Zagger on July 28, 2011 11:00 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A federal judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case challenging whether political speech from grassroots organizations can be regulated under campaign finance laws [JURIST news archive]. Judge Robert Hinkle, who heard the arguments, partially denied a preliminary injunction [opinion, text] in October to stop enforcement of the challenged campaign finance law prior to last fall's election. The plaintiffs, represented by the Institute for Justice [advocacy website], are four Sarasota residents who wanted to finance air radio ads that they created opposing a state constitutional amendment. The four plaintiffs intended to spend $150 each to air the ads and also wished to collect monetary contributions from others to air the ads more frequently. The Florida Department of State [official website] considered the group to constitute a "political committee" under Fla. Stat. § 106.011(1)(a) [text] and wants to require them to comply with the attendant campaign contribution regulations such as disclosure and filing requirements. At oral arguments Wednesday, the plaintiffs argued these requirements should not be applied to grassroots organizations [AP report] since they are stricter than the campaign financing requirements for labor unions and corporations. Their lawyer cited the US Supreme Court [official website] decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report], which eased restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations and labor unions on First Amendment [text] grounds. Hinkle countered that Citizens United made no mention of political committees. The Florida State Department argued that such requirements are necessary for the electorate to know who is donating money since many grassroots organizations use ambiguous names. It is unknown when Hinkle will rule but the Institute for Justice announced plans to appeal if ruled against.

The Florida federal courts have been a battleground over campaign finance regulation. Last month, Judge Hinkle enjoined a campaign finance law [JURIST report] providing matching funds for publicly-financed candidates. The lawsuit was brought by now Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) [campaign website] during last year's Republican gubernatorial primary when he was running against a publicly-financed candidate. Scott argued the law violated his First Amendment rights because it limited his campaign expenditures to $24.9 million since every dollar over would be matched in public funding for his opponent. Hinkle struck down the law after issuing a temporary injunction blocking it during the primary campaign. Hinkle's reasoning in that case closely followed the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] striking down a similar Arizona campaign finance law, also on First Amendment grounds.




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

UK court allows blocking of file-sharing site
Julia Zebley on July 28, 2011 10:19 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The United Kingdom's High Court of Justice [official website] ruled [judgment text, PDF] on Thursday for the Motion Picture Association (MPAA) [corporate website], requiring internet provider British Telecom (BT) [corporate website] to block access to a file-sharing website, Newzbin2 [official website]. Newzbin2 is an aggregator of content, but does not develop any illegal content itself, simply making the content more accessible. BT recently developed a filtering service that prevents its users from accessing child pornography, which the court now requires it implement to block Newzbin2, but not other file-sharing sites. Although the filtering system can be evaded, Justice Richard Arnold said if the system stops a minority of users from file-sharing, it is enough, and rejected arguments that users of BT did not have knowledge of copyright infringement. However, Arnold downplayed the possibility of a "wave" of suits to block other file-sharing sites.
Turning to other websites that provide access to infringing copies of copyright material, I accept that it is likely that rightholders will wish to obtain similar orders relating to those. It should be borne in mind, however, that in this case the Studios started from the point that they had already obtained judgment against Newzbin Ltd. Even so, the Studios have had to obtain and put before the Court a substantial quantity of evidence in support of the present application. In addition, the application involved the preparation by counsel for the Studios of a lengthy and detailed skeleton argument, a two-day hearing and written submissions following the hearing. Thus this will have been a costly application for the Studios to bring. ... Furthermore, although I cannot prejudge later arguments in this case, it is not inevitable that future applicants will recover all their costs even if successful. ... For these reasons, even if the present application is successful, I think it is clear that rightholders will not undertake future applications lightly. On the contrary, I consider it probable that they will concentrate their resources on seeking relief in respect of the more egregious infringers. I therefore do not anticipate a flood of such applications.
The MPAA declared [press release] the ruling a great victory, and said it rejects the arguments that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have no responsibility to fight copyright infringement. Open Rights Group [advocacy website], a group devoted to protecting internet freedoms, called the blocking "pointless and dangerous" [press release].

The British Department for Business Innovation and Skills [official website] in 2009 proposed stricter sanctions [JURIST report] against illegal file-sharing that would include restricting and suspending user Internet access. The changes targeted repeat offenders by requiring ISPs to block download sites, reduce a user's broadband speeds and ultimately shut down the user's Internet access. Costs to implement these measures would be shared between users and service providers. This eventually became the Digital Economy Act [materials] passed in 2010. It is currently under judicial review.




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

Federal appeals court hears arguments on tobacco advertising
Julia Zebley on July 28, 2011 10:00 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] heard oral arguments on Wednesday in Discount Tobacco City & Lottery v. USA [Justia backgrounder] on cross-appeals from a tobacco advertising decision [JURIST report] in January 2010. The January ruling upheld [opinion, PDF] the majority of restrictions on cigarette advertising imposed by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) [HR 1256 text], a law designed to limit the tobacco industry's ability to advertise to children, including a ban on distributing clothing and goods with logos or brand names, as well as sponsorship of cultural, athletic and social events. Several tobacco companies are appealing this ruling. Although this was considered a victory for anti-tobacco activists, the judgment did permit the continued use of color and graphics in tobacco advertisements and labels, striking down those portions of the law, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official side], joined by a variety of anti-smoking groups are appealing that part of the judgment. The DOJ argued [AP report] for the reinstatement of those provisions, explaining that the government has a right to regulate tobacco as they see fit, due to its lethal and addictive nature. The Public Health Law Center [advocacy website] filed an amicus brief [text, PDF] agreeing with the DOJ:
It was the tobacco companies who turned seemingly straightforward terms like "lights" into misleading Orwellian caricatures; it was they who so corrupted the market for MRTPs ["modified risk tobacco products"] that the only way to make it safe was to require FDA approval beforehand; it was they who through deception and manipulation created the need for the graphic warning labels. The FSPTCA is an appropriate response to a continuing catastrophe.
R.J. Reynolds Co. [corporate website], the manufacturer of several popular cigarette brands, argued that the limitations on free speech were so sweeping that it restricts adults unfairly. It is unknown when the three-judge panel for the Sixth Circuit will rule on the case.

In 2009, US President Barack Obama [official website] signed the FSPTCA into law [JURIST report] granting the FDA certain authority to regulate tobacco products. The legislation heightens warning-label requirements, prohibits marketing "light cigarettes" as a healthier alternative and allows for the regulation of cigarette ingredients. The bill gives the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products but does not permit the agency to regulate tobacco leaf that is not in the hands of tobacco product manufacturers or producers of tobacco leaf, including tobacco growers, tobacco warehouses and tobacco grower cooperatives. Cigarettes and other tobacco products have been subject to strict marketing regulations on both the federal and state levels. Earlier this month, a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit over the constitutional right to sell cigarettes in pharmacies. The court upheld the ordinance citing health risks associated with smoking cigarettes and said, "through the sale of tobacco products, pharmacies convey tacit approval of the purchase and use of tobacco products, which sends a mixed message to consumers who generally patronize pharmacies for health care services." Earlier this year, two tobacco companies filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] to enjoin a recent opinion by the agency's advisory committee due to conflicts of interest. Last year, the FDA announced a final rule [text] restricting tobacco sales and promotions [JURIST report] directed at youth. The Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents are a set of broad regulations "designed to significantly curb access to and the appeal of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and adolescents in the United States."




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

Italy lower house rejects LGBT hate crime prevention bill
Erin Bock on July 28, 2011 8:01 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Italian Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Italian] on Tuesday rejected by a vote of 293 to 250 legislation [C. 2802 materials, in Italian] that would have provided greater penalties for hate crimes committed against homosexuals and transsexuals. The legislation was rejected on the grounds [assembly discussion, in Italian] that it violated the concept of equality in Article 3 of the Italian Constitution [text, in Italian] by providing differential treatment for crimes committed due to sexual orientation and gender identity compared to crimes committed for other discriminatory purposes. Amnesty International [advocacy website] called the vote "a wasted opportunity to take a step in the right direction" and urged [statement] Italian authorities to promote diversity and raise awareness of prejudices against LGBT people and other groups at risk for discrimination. Arcigay [advocacy website, in Italian], an Italian LGBT rights group, denounced the decision [statement] as a betrayal of civil rights and called on the European Union for assistance in what it classified as a "democratic emergency."

As a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], Italy is a party to the "Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity" resolution [text, PDF], which was passed [JURIST report] last month. The resolution is the first to call for an end to sexuality discrimination worldwide and to recognize it as a "priority" for the UN. However, the resolution does not address any penalties for violating the act nor is it binding for members. Italy is one of few Western European nations that does not offer legal recognition to same-sex couples. In April 2010, Italy's Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] rejected [JURIST report] a challenge to the constitutionality of the country's ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. In 2007, Italy's Cabinet approved a controversial proposal [JURIST report] to grant a number of legal rights to unmarried couples, including those of the same sex. The proposal, harshly criticized by the country's justice minister and bishop [JURIST reports], ultimately failed.




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

Niger establishes anti-corruption agency
Maureen Cosgrove on July 27, 2011 3:29 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The government of Niger announced on Wednesday that it has established a new agency [press release, in French] tasked with combating corruption. The High Authority to Combat Corruption will be comprised of government administration and private sector representatives who will monitor corruption levels, conduct studies and investigations into corrupt behavior and implement measures aiming to deter corruption. The government justified the creation of the agency, arguing that corruption hinders economic growth and social well-being, and increases social inequality and poverty levels. The government also noted that the agency will improve Niger's compliance with the UN Convention Against Corruption [text, PDF; UNODC backgrounder].

Corruption allegations have plagued Niger in recent years. In May, an appeals court in Niger's capital Niamey ordered the release [JURIST report] of former president Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile] after dropping all corruption charges against the ousted leader who has been in custody for 14 months following a military coup [JURIST report] in February 2010. The military junta charged Tandja with corruption [Reuters report] following his removal, based on a junta investigation that found USD $128 million was stolen during Tandja's 10-year presidency. In September 2009, members of Nigerien opposition parties said that police had detained 30 former opposition lawmakers allegedly at the behest of Tandja. The 30 former members of parliament were arrested on charges of embezzlement [JURIST report], but were likely being targeted for their dissidence, as they refused to recognize Tandja's expansion of powers. In February of last year, the United Front for the Safeguard of Democratic Assets (Fusad), a Nigerien rights group, pushed for the prosecution [JURIST report] of Tandja on treason charges and corruption violating the constitution shortly after the coup.




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

Ivory Coast President says all responsible for post-election violence will be prosecuted
Zach Zagger on July 27, 2011 3:06 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara [BBC profile; political website, in French] said Wednesday that all those responsible for war crimes during the country's post-election violence [JURIST news archive] will be prosecuted and brought to justice regardless of their side. Ouattara said that even his loyalists [Huffington Post report] responsible for the violence will be brought to justice. However, Ouattara said that due to the state of the Ivory Coast legal system that prosecution should be carried out by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Last month, Ouattara granted permission [JURIST report] to the ICC to investigate the violence following the presidential elections in which former president Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] refused to leave office after losing the election. Ouattara made the statements before meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] at the UN headquarters in New York. The UN Security Council [official website] Thursday unanimously recommended extending [UN news report] the UN's peacekeeping mandate until July 31, 2012 at its current level of 9,800 troops. Ouattara, earlier this month, set up a commission of inquiry [JURIST report] to investigate crimes and human rights violations that took place during post-election violence. The commission will investigate the abuses and provide recommendations for implementing measures to prevent similar incidents.

The Ivory Coast has already issued international arrest warrants [JURIST report] for Gbagbo aides, most notably for Charles Ble Goude, the leader of Gbagbo's youth militia, accusing him of inciting ethnic violence and attacks against UN workers. Other members of Gbagbo's government also had warrants issued including the government spokesman Ahoua Don Mello, industry minister Phillipe Attey, and the ambassador to Israel Raymond Koudou Kessie. Twenty-one others already in detention were charged for violence and inciting tribalism and xenophobia. In June, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] officially requested permission from ICC judges [JURIST report] to begin investigation into the Ivory Coast after determining that war crimes and crimes against humanity may have been committed during the violence. Since the Ivory Coast is not a member state of the ICC because it is not a signatory of the Rome Statute [text, PDF], the ICC can only investigate with the Ivory Coast's express permission. In April, Gbagbo was captured and forced from office [JURIST report] after refusing to leave despite losing last November's election to Ouattara, which resulted in months of fighting between Ouattara's and Gbagbo's forces.




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

Russia court denies parole for ex-Yukos oil executive
Maureen Cosgrove on July 27, 2011 1:50 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A court in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia on Wednesday denied parole for former Yukos oil executive Platon Lebedev [defense website]. Lebedev and his former business partner Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] were convicted in December and sentenced [JURIST reports] in the Khamovinchesky District Court [official website, in Russian] on charges connected with embezzling more than $27 billion from Yukos oil. Lebedev's lawyer indicated he would appeal [RIA Novosti report] the court's parole denial. In January, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev's lawyers filed an appeal [JURIST report] challenging their six-year extended sentences for embezzlement and fraud. Unless the appeal succeeds, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are expected to remain imprisoned through 2017.

Russia's Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights announced in February that it will look into the verdicts [JURIST report] handed down against Lebedev and Khodorkovsky. Prior to this conviction, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were already serving eight-year prison sentences for fraud and tax evasion [JURIST report]. International human rights organizations and numerous governments criticized Russia's justice system following the guilty verdict [JURIST reports]. Last year, former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile] testified [JURIST report] that former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] ordered Khodorkovsky's arrest for political reasons, indicating that Khodorkovsky had funded the Communist Party [party website, in Russian] without first getting approval to do so from the president. Some critics of the Russian government have argued that the charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are politically motivated [JURIST op-ed] due to Khodorkovsky's opposition to Putin. In March 2010, Khodorkovsky criticized Russia's justice system [JURIST report] as an "assembly line" that inevitably finds the government's political enemies to be guilty. The statement echoed concerns Khodorkovsky had previously expressed about the fairness of Russian trials and the need for widespread reform of the Russian court system [JURIST reports].




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

Alabama immigration law challenged in state court
Zach Zagger on July 27, 2011 1:16 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A group of immigrants in Alabama filed a lawsuit Wednesday in the Montgomery County Circuit Court [official website] to challenge the controversial Alabama immigration law [HB 56 text] as in violation of the state constitution. HB 56, signed into law last month [JURIST report], expands restrictions on undocumented immigrants by allowing law enforcement to detain individuals under "reasonable suspicion" they are undocumented and forces employers to verify the immigration status of potential employees. The five plaintiffs include [Fox News report] two Mexican immigrants, two undocumented immigrants who remain anonymous and another anonymous plaintiff who is married to an undocumented immigrant. This lawsuit differs from the one filed earlier this month [JURIST report] in federal court by rights groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] because it focuses on violations of state law. Thomas Drake II, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said that the Alabama constitution is more liberal [The Huntsville Times report] than the US Constitution because it protects a broader variety of rights and that they also plan to join the ACLU lawsuit. The Alabama Constitution [text] says in Article I § 30, "[t]hat immigration shall be encouraged; emigration shall not be prohibited, and no citizen shall be exiled." The ACLU lawsuit argues that HB 56 is preempted by federal law and that, among other constitutional violations, it violates the Fourth Amendment by subjecting citizens and non-citizens with permission to be in the US to unreasonable searches and seizures.

The ACLU and the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama [advocacy website] filed a motion for a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] to block the implementation of HB 56 which is set to take effect on September 1. The rights groups argue that they are entitled to a preliminary injunction because of their substantial likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable injury to plaintiffs and because the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [official website] signed HB 56 into law last month, just one week after it was passed by the legislature [JURIST reports]. In addition to authorizing detention of individuals on reasonable suspicion they are illegal immigrants, the law provides harsh restrictions on employment for illegal immigrants. Businesses cited multiple times for hiring undocumented workers could lose their business licenses. Furthermore, undocumented immigrants are prohibited from applying for a job, and anyone transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants will be punished by a fine or jail time. Similar laws have been passed in Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah [JURIST reports]. Federal courts have enjoined laws in Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, Oklahoma and Utah [JURIST reports].




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

Rights group urges DRC to arrest war crimes suspect
Maureen Cosgrove on July 27, 2011 12:55 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to arrest suspected war criminal Bosco Ntaganda [case materials], a Congolese general wanted [arrest warrant, in French] by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for war crimes. At a conference at the Holocaust Memorial Museum [official website; DRC conference page] in Washington, advocates called for Ntaganda's arrest prior to the DRC presidential and legislative elections that are scheduled to take place in November. Senior Researcher at HRW Anneke van Woudenberg said that arresting key war crimes suspects like Ntaganda would quell the unrest [RNW report] and "tear away the culture of impunity in Congo."

The warrant for Ntaganda's arrest was originally issued in 2006 but was not made public by the ICC [JURIST report] until 2008. The arrest warrant was issued under seal because "public knowledge of the proceedings in this case might result in Bosco Ntaganda hiding, fleeing, and/or obstructing or endangering the investigations or the proceedings of the Court," but ICC judges determined that those circumstances have since changed. HRW urged the Congolese government to arrest [press release; JURIST report] Ntaganda in October 2010. Ntaganda lives and moves openly in Goma, a city in the eastern bloc of the DRC. He gained leadership of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) rebel group in 2009 as a result of a coup against former leader Laurent Nkunda [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Ntaganda became a general of the Congolese army after promising to integrate the rebel forces into the Congolese troops. As a result, the government has refused to execute the ICC arrest warrant against him, claiming that his presence is needed in order to maintain peace withing the troops.




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

Federal court upholds stem cell research
Julia Zebley on July 27, 2011 11:42 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday dismissed [summary judgment text, PDF] an appeal attempting to overturn April's decision [text, PDF; JURIST report] that ended an injunction [JURIST reports] on federal funding of embryonic stem cell [JURIST archive] research. The initial suit, brought by two scientists, was an attempt to stop federal funding for embryonic stem cells so there was more funding for their research on adult stem cells. Their appeal stated that April's decision only considered one of their arguments and that stem cell research is not "research" under the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment [text]. Judge Royce Lamberth disagreed, although he was the judge who issued the original injunction, stating that he stands by the US Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] decision in April as controlling law. A spokesperson for the White House called the decision a victory [press release], and said: "President Obama is committed to supporting responsible stem cell research and today's ruling was another step in the right direction."

Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has been a long uphill battle for the Obama administration. In 2009, President Barack Obama [official website] signed [press release] an executive order [text; JURIST report] which removed the previous administration's eight-year restriction on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. After the preliminary injunction on stem research was granted last year, the Obama administration appealed [JURIST report] the injunction, arguing that the 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. While the appeals process was underway, the court granted a long-term stay which allowed federal funding to continue [JURIST report] while the court reached a decision.




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

Indian couple challenges UK immigration law
Maureen Cosgrove on July 27, 2011 11:04 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] An Indian couple on Wednesday challenged a UK immigration law that contains an English language speaking requirement. The provision [Home Office backgrounder], which was announced in June 2010 by UK Home Secretary Theresa May [official website], requires an immigrant to be able to speak English [Economic Times report] before joining his or her spouse in the UK. The couple's lawyer argued before the High Court in Birmingham that the language requirement violates the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF] and called the law "blatantly, admittedly, racially discriminatory." The couple, who have been married for 37 years and have six children, are seeking to live permanently in England after traveling between India and England for 15 years.

Immigration has long been a controversial topic in the UK. The number of UK employers prosecuted for hiring illegal immigrants has spiked [JURIST report] since changes to British immigration laws were implemented in February 2008. In 2006, the Home Office [official website] announced plans to overhaul [JURIST report] Britain's immigration system in a review [text, PDF] outlining how the Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate [official website] will respond to the impact of globalization, changing travel patterns and evolving international crime and terrorism. The Labour Party government of former prime minister Gordon Brown pursued plans to institute a national ID card system [JURIST news archive] as part of the UK's effort to clamp down on illegal immigrants [JURIST report].




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

Obama issues sanctions to fight international criminal organizations
Zach Zagger on July 27, 2011 10:25 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US President Barack Obama issued an executive order [text] Monday imposing economic sanctions to combat international organized crime [JURIST news archive] operations, freezing their US assets, preventing the transfer of property to the organizations and criminalizing providing aid the organizations. The order targets four specific Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs), though more could be named in the future: Los Zetas from Mexico, the Yakuza from Japan, the Camorra from Italy and the Brothers Circle based in Eastern Europe. The sanctions were imposed pursuant to the president's authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) [50 USC § 1701 et seq.], which allows the president to exercise authority "to deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States, if the President declares a national emergency with respect to such threat." The sanctions are part of an overall strategy outlined in a 25-page report [text, PDF] entitled the "Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime." The report defines TCOs as:
those self-perpetuating associations of individuals who operate transnationally for the purpose of obtaining power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption and/or violence, or while protecting their illegal activities through a transnational organizational structure and the exploitation of transnational commerce or communication mechanisms. There is no single structure under which transnational organized criminals operate; they vary from hierarchies to clans, networks, and cells, and may evolve to other structures.
The report says that TCOs are able to exploit the "interconnected nature of our modern trading, transportation, and transactional systems that move people and commerce throughout the global economy and across our borders," and admits that the US effort against TCOs has been hampered by "a shift in U.S. intelligence collection priorities since the September 11, 2001." Robert Chesney of the University of Texas School of Law argues [Lawfare op-ed] that the new strategy against TCOs reflects a shift in the use of economic sanctions that recognizes the role of non-state actors in international affairs, similar to the way in which the US is combating foreign terrorist organizations.

Other countries are taking steps to combat organized crime. Last May, Bulgaria passed a bill that allows "civil confiscation" [JURIST report] enabling law enforcement to launch investigations of people who cannot account for their income, a move designed to target organized crime. Last July, Italian police arrested more than 300 individuals [JURIST report] and seized millions of euros worth of assets in a countrywide raid on the 'Ndrangheta [CNN backgrounder] crime organization. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] released a report last June detailing the globalization of international organized crime [JURIST report] and its threat to international security. The report specifically addressed the global economic impact of human and drug trafficking, sale of illicit firearms, piracy, identity theft and the illegal exploitation of natural resources. The report found that while countries such as Afghanistan and Colombia supply the majority of the world's illegal drugs, the profits from the drugs are primarily found in the countries where the drugs are being sold. Human trafficking is reported to generate a profit of USD $3 billion, with 140,000 victims being exploited in Europe alone. Piracy reportedly doubled over the prior year resulting in an annual income of US $100 million, the majority of which goes to organized crime.




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

Rights group urges Bangladesh to ensure fair trials for mutiny defendants
Maureen Cosgrove on July 27, 2011 10:06 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged [press release] the government of Bangladesh to ensure that those accused of being involved in a February 2009 mutiny [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] are given fair trials. Members of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website], a Bangladeshi paramilitary force, have been tried en masse for the mutiny, which left 74 dead. HRW's call comes in response to the mass sentencing of 657 border guards for their part in the mutiny [JURIST report] by a Bangladesh military court, bringing the total number of soldiers jailed for the mutiny to more than 3,000. Asia Director at HRW Brad Adams said that the mass trials are not fair and that the individuals responsible for the mutiny are not being held accountable:
It is impossible to try hundreds of people at the same time and expect anything resembling a fair trial. The massacre shocked Bangladesh, but each of the accused should only be found guilty if the government provides specific evidence against them. The BDR mutiny was ugly and brutal, but the current approach appears to be a witch hunt against a group rather than an attempt to identify the individuals responsible for specific crimes. The government should rethink its approach to make sure the masterminds and perpetrators of serious offenses are brought to fair trial, but end the prosecutions of the rank-and-file who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
HRW also contends that the trials are being conducted in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bangladesh is obligated to uphold. In addition to due process breaches, many of the detainees have been held without charge and without access to legal counsel.

A judge in the Court of Metropolitan Sessions, a criminal court in Bangladesh, indicted 430 people [JURIST report] last week for their roles in the mutiny. Last January, the civilian trial of 800 soldiers charged [JURIST report] with crimes stemming from their roles in the 2009 mutiny began in the capital city of Dhaka. The trial involves some of the most serious charges with those found guilty facing the death penalty. The trial is expected to last over a year and to include the testimonies of more than 1,000 individuals. In August 2010, a special Bangladeshi military court sentenced [JURIST report] 14 members of the BDR for their roles in the mutiny. The tribunal, led by BDR head Maj. Gen. Mainul Islam, fined each of the men Tk 100 and sentenced [BDNews24 report] them to prison terms ranging from four months to six years, one year short of the maximum possible sentence for rebellion under Bangladeshi law. About 3,500 other soldiers will face lesser charges in military courts.




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

Colombia high court sends same-sex marriage question to Congress
Julia Zebley on July 27, 2011 9:58 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Colombia [official website, in Spanish] ruled [press release, in Spanish] unanimously on Tuesday that same-sex couples are "families" under the law and their relationships cannot be invalidated nor can same-sex marriage be made illegal, but gave the Colombian Congress two years to legislate same-sex marriage rather than declaring it outright constitutional. Without congressional action, same-sex couples will be able to legally wed through a notary public and currently are considered to be in "de facto" unions. The original suit questions Article 113 of the Civil Code, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Declaring that regulating marriage is the legislature's responsibility, the court did make a statement in favor of same-sex marriage, arguing that church animosity toward same-sex couples is an unfair bias: "It is based on prejudice against the homosexual choice. There is no evidence that children raised by same-sex couples suffer traumas or problems. It is clear that same-sex couples who love each other succeed in building relationships. So there is no reason to deprive them the right to marry." The president of the Senate, Juan Manuel Corzo praised the decision [El Espectador report, in Spanish] as enshrining the will of the people. Corzo suggested the LGBT community draft a same-sex marriage bill and see if it passes, although he will vote against it. LGBT rights group Colombia Diversa [advocacy website] criticized the ruling [press release, in Spanish], saying the court ignored the "bias in the way the Congress of the Republic of Colombia has handled issues related to same-sex couples and failure of duty of protection of minorities in a deficit democracy like ours."

In 2008, the court held that same-sex couples should be given the same pension and health benefits [JURIST report] as those held by opposite-sex couples. In its decision [court materials, in Spanish], the court said that to exclude same-sex couples from receiving such benefits would undermine their fundamental right to human dignity and equal protection of the laws. The previous year, the Colombian Senate voted against landmark legislation [JURIST report] that would have given same-sex couples who have cohabited for over a period of two years similar rights as persons in heterosexual common law marriages. Earlier, the court ruled [JURIST report] that same-sex couples must be accorded the same property rights as other unmarried couples.




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

New York AG files brief challenging federal same-sex marriage ban
Zach Zagger on July 27, 2011 9:07 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief [text, PDF] challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] barring recognition of same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive]. The brief was filed [press release] in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] in the case of Windsor v. United States, arguing that DOMA violates the Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] by precluding same-sex couples from the same rights and privileges of opposite-sex couples, and that it intrudes on what had previously been the the exclusive right of the states to define marriage. The brief argues that since DOMA discriminates based on sex and/or sexual orientation, it should be subjected to a heightened scrutiny standard and that it fails to meet that standard under the Fifth Amendment [text]. The brief further argues that DOMA violates federalism principles:
By refusing to recognize for federal purposes marriages that are valid under state law, DOMA intrudes on matters historically within the control of the States, and undermines and denigrates New York's law designed to ensure equality of same-sex and different-sex married couples. Thus DOMA threatens basic principles of federalism. Moreover, it classifies and determines access to rights, benefits, and protections based on sexual orientation, and also based on sex.
Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer obtained a legal same-sex marriage in Canada in 2007, but Spyer died just two years later. Windsor is challenging the assessment of estate taxes to property transferred to her upon her wife's death that would not have been assessed on such a transfer between married partners of opposite sex. Scheidernman's action comes just days after New York enacted its same-sex marriage law after Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) [official website] signed the bill into law [JURIST report] last month.

US President Barack Obama has expressed support [JURIST report] for the repeal of DOMA and also support for Respect for Marriage Act [text], which was introduced by Congressional Democrats [JURIST report] in February to repeal DOMA. In March, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] announced that he was launching a legal advisory group to defend [JURIST report] DOMA, stating "[t]he constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts, not by the president unilaterally, and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution." Democrats introduced the Respect for Marriage Act following February's announcement by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] that it will no longer defend the constitutionality [JURIST report] of Section 3 of DOMA, which restricts the federal definition of marriage to heterosexual couples, in court cases challenging the provision. The announcement came just one month after the DOJ filed a brief [JURIST report] with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] defending the constitutionality of DOMA.




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

Ukraine judge refuses to arrest ex-PM Tymoshenko
Julia Zebley on July 27, 2011 9:05 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Ukrainian Judge Rodion Kireyev on Wednesday rejected a motion to arrest [press release] former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] for disruptive courtroom behavior. Kireyev made his decision based on his ability to control his courtroom, although he stated that Tymoshenko had disrespected him by not standing when addressing the court and that her supporters were causing distracting disturbances by protesting her trial. Tymoshenko said that Kireyev did not arrest her out of fear [tweet]. Tymoshenko's ongoing trial includes charges of abuse of office in connection with signing gas import contracts with Russia, misappropriating state funds and abuse of authority [JURIST reports] by purchasing "1000 Opel Combo" medical vans at a 20 percent mark-up during her time as prime minister from 2007-2010. Last week, the court dismissed [JURIST report] Serhiy Vlasenko, Tymoshenko's lawyer. In protest, Tymoshenko appeared without lawyers [Interfax-Ukraine report] Wednesday and filed a motion to remove Kireyev and requested a three-day recess [press release] to find new lawyers. Kirieyev refused to recuse himself in June.

Earlier this month, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) [official website, in Ukrainian] announced that they are launching a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into UESU. Last month, Tymoshenko filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], alleging violations of the European Convention of Human Rights [text, PDF]. The complaint argued that the charges against Tymoshenko are politically engineered by current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [official website, in Ukrainian], Tymoshenko's political rival. ECHR President Jean Paul Costa refused to comment on the complaint [Korrespondent report, in Russian], but said the matter was before the court. The current combined case against her is not the first time she has been prosecuted. Last May, prosecutors reopened a separate criminal investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that Tymoshenko attempted to bribe Supreme Court judges. Tymoshenko's government was dissolved in March 2010 after she narrowly lost the presidential election to Yanukovych. Tymoshenko had alleged that widespread voter fraud allowed Yanukovych to win the election.




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

North Carolina House overrides veto on abortion waiting period bill
Chris Morris on July 26, 2011 3:35 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The North Carolina House of Representatives [official website] voted Tuesday to override a veto by Governor Beverly Perdue [official website] on legislation [HB 854 materials] that would require a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion [JURIST news archive]. With a 72-47 vote [News-Record report], the measure, known as the "Women's Right to Know Act," will now go to the Senate, which on Monday overrode [Charlotte Observer report] three additional Perdue vetoes. The abortion legislation would also require women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of the fetus prior to the procedure. Supporters argue that the bill is necessary in order for women to be fully informed about their decision, but Perdue disagrees [press release; JURIST report], calling it "a dangerous intrusion into the confidential relationship that exists between women and their doctors." The legislation had originally passed the House 71-48 and the Senate 29-20.

The North Carolina government is one of several state legislatures to have acted recently to limit abortion rights. Both Texas and Florida [JURIST reports] have recently passed bills requiring ultrasounds before abortions. Last month, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit challenging the Texas law [JURIST report]. In March, South Dakota passed a law requiring a three-day waiting period [JURIST report] before an abortion—the longest waiting period in the country. That law is also facing a court challenge [JURIST report]. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports]




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

Nigeria president pushes for longer presidency term
Maureen Cosgrove on July 26, 2011 2:54 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday announced his intentions to propose a constitutional amendment [press release] that would provide a single, extended tenure for the president of Nigeria and its 36 governors. The president and governors are currently limited to serving two four-year terms and are permitted to run for re-election between terms. Jonathan cited the high cost of organizing party primaries and general elections and the instability that regularly follows elections as reasons for proposing the amendment. Jonathan has not, however, provided any details about the length of the proposed extended term. A spokesperson for the president describes the proposed amendment as an effort to facilitate democracy:
President Jonathan's commitment to a single term for the President and Governors is borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of Governance and institutionalization of democracy at this stage of our development. A longer term for lawmakers would also help to stabilise the polity.
The proposed amendment will be sent to the National Assembly (NASS) [official website] for discussion and voting. If approved, the bill would not take effect until 2015, after Jonathan's presidential term has ended.

Nigerian elections have not proceeded without significant problems. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] and the Nigerian Bar Association [association website] called for Nigeria's National Assembly to pass legislation creating a special electoral offenses commission [statement; JURIST report]. The commission would be tasked with investigating and prosecuting election-related abuses, including violence. In November, a judge for Nigeria's Federal High Court [official website] in Lagos ruled [JURIST report] that an amendment to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution [text] made by NASS cannot become operational law without the assent of the president. The amendment, known as the Constitution (First Amendment) Act 2010 [text, PDF] was passed in June 2010. It repeals the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2006 in order to re-instate the Nigerian Independent National Election Commission (INEC) [official website]. Also in June 2010, the legislature passed [JURIST report] revisions to the constitution to clarify the exercise of executive authority in absence of the president. The constitutional revisions changed federal election law by removing a provision of the constitution that prohibited people who had been charged with fraud from standing for election and required candidates for federal office to have a degree beyond secondary education. Previous elections in Nigeria have been marred by violence and fraud [JURIST reports].




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

France rights groups seek to freeze Syria president al-Assad's foreign assets
Zach Zagger on July 26, 2011 1:58 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Two French rights groups have filed a complaint with the Prosecutors Office of Paris against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile] in order to determine whether he or members of his entourage have assets in France. Transparency International France and SHERPA [advocacy websites] said they filed the complaint [press release, in French] in order to freeze all of the assets in France that can be connected to al-Assad and stop them from being transferred to other jurisdictions to avoid judgment liability. The groups said that making sure the Syrian people receive restitution for the assets stolen by corrupt leaders is a fundamental part of the UN Convention Against Corruption [text, PDF; UNODC backgrounder]. They complain that the current asset freeze by the EU does not cover assets held for al-Assad by others in a possible corruption conspiracy. The group pointed to similar complaints against former Tunisian president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and Libyan leader Mummar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] that have led to criminal investigations for allegations of money laundering.

Syria has been struggling to reform amidst widespread protests, and al-Assad has come under international scrutiny for using force to control demonstrators. Earlier this week, a US State Department [official website] spokesman called the Syrian response "barbaric" [AFP report], while Secretary of State Hilary Clinton [official profile] said the al-Assad had lost legitimacy. Last week, two UN rights officials expressed concern [JURIST report] over reports of violence used by Syrian authorities against the country's own people. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng [official profile, PDF] and Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Edward Luck [academic profile] stated that reports of Syrian forces killing or arbitrarily arresting peaceful protesters indicate potentially grievous violations of international human rights laws, and urged officials to adhere to the government's 2005 pledge to protect its citizens. On Sunday, the Syrian government approved a draft law [JURIST report] that would allow the formation of political parties to oppose the ruling Baath Party, led by al-Assad, that would permit a political party to be established so long as it is not based on religious or tribunal lines and does not discriminate based on ethnicity, gender or race. Critics say al-Assad has achieved little reform despite promises [JURIST report].




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

UN rights groups express concern over children's rights in CAR
Chris Morris on July 26, 2011 1:48 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN Security Council's Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict [official website] expressed concern Monday about children's rights violations in the Central African Republic (CAR). Citing abuses [statement] like rape and other sexual violence as well as recruitment in armed conflict, the council condemned armed rebel groups in the country: the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [Global Security profile; JURIST news archive]; the People's Army for the Restoration of Democracy; and the Convention of the Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP). The council also called upon the CAR government "to work to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all children associated with these groups, and to refuse any support for any militias that recruit and use children." Also, in advocating the cooperation of armed groups with the UN, the council welcomed a ceasefire last month [UN Refugee Agency report] by the CPJP with the CAR government.

The council's expressed concern comes days after the UN Security Council [official website] itself condemned [press release] the LRA for ongoing attacks in central Africa and called for the release of all civilians and non-combatants including child soldiers. The security council has also requested an official report on the LRA to be submitted in October. In addition, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released [JURIST report] a report last week about children as victims of war crimes in Somalia. In the report [text, PDF] entitled "In the Line of Fire: Somalia's Children Under Attack," AI provided evidence indicating that armed conflict in areas of Somalia has led to deteriorating human rights conditions, particularly for children. Armed military and civilian forces, like the Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder], regularly recruit Somalian children to serve as soldiers, often denying access to education and placing the children in danger of death and injury. The report contained vignettes illustrating the impact of fighting outbreaks on Somali youth. AI also enumerated recommendations for protecting children, including the monitoring military recruitment more effectively, initiation of investigations and cooperation with international human rights organizations.




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

UN SG calls for 'early action' for releasing Myanmar political prisoners
Zach Zagger on July 26, 2011 1:18 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] urged Myanmar to release political prisoners in a meeting Monday with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [JURIST news archive] and a Myanmar government minister, according to a statement [text] by Ban's spokesman. Ban was satisfied with positive developments made in the meeting with Suu Kyi and the Minister for Social Welfare U Aung Kyi. Suu Kyi recently called on the international community to help improve workers' rights in an address to the International Labor Organization (ILO) [official website] at its annual conference. She said the workers rights linked to the prisoner situation in Myanmar. Ban's spokesman said:
The Secretary-General encourages such contacts and dialogue. It will be recalled that his Special Adviser, had meetings with [Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi] during his recent visit to Myanmar. In line with the international community's expectations and Myanmar's national interest, the Secretary-General hopes such efforts will continue with a view to building mutual understanding through genuine dialogue. He also calls upon the Government of Myanmar to consider early action on the release of political prisoners in that country.
Myanmar underwent a transfer of power [BBC report] from a military regime to a civil system after holding its first elections in 20 years. But many critics argue the new regime is a sham since a party close to the military regime won with 80 percent of the vote. Last November, Myanmar's government released Suu Kyi, ending her almost eight years under house arrest.

Last month, Myanmar began releasing as many as 15,000 prisoners as part of an amnesty program after a visit by the UN secretary-general's envoy to Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar [official profile], who called on the country to release its political prisoners. But few of the prisoners being released by the government are political prisoners. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called the move a "pathetic response" to calls from the international community. Last December, a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] expert Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile; JURIST news archive], a UN Special Rapporteur, urged Myanmar's military government [JURIST report] to release 2,202 political prisoners. Quintana called for the release of the "prisoners of conscience," many of whom, he says, suffer from health problems as a result of the harsh detention conditions. Quintana claims the release is necessary to promote democracy. Ban hailed Suu Kyi's release and encouraged the country to release all political prisoners [press release]. Suu Kyi's release came days after the Myanmar Supreme Court rejected an appeal [JURIST report] challenging the conditions of her house arrest.




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

Advocacy group files suit to block World Trade Center cross
Chris Morris on July 26, 2011 11:44 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] American Atheists (AA) [advocacy website], a group that supports the separation of church and state, filed a lawsuit [text, PDF] Monday against the display of a cross at the World Trade Center (WTC) memorial. The cross, two intersecting beams found in the wreckage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was moved [9/11 Memorial report] to the 9/11 Memorial Museum [official website] last week from a nearby church amid communion and a blessing from a priest. AA, however, views the cross [press release] as a "Christian icon" and contends that Christianity does not deserve "preferential treatment." AA President Dave Silverman called for a more inclusive memorial display:
This cross is now a part of the official WTC memorial. No other religions or philosophies will be honored. It will just be a Christian icon, in the middle of OUR memorial. As a public accommodation, the memorial must allow us (and all other religious philosophies) to include our own display of equal size inside the museum, or not include the cross. Equality is an all-or-nothing deal.
AA claims the cross violates New York law and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie [official websites] are named among the defendants.

Courts have disagreed on the constitutionality of religious displays. Most recently, a federal judge ordered [text, PDF] Florida's Dixie County Courthouse to remove [JURIST report] the Ten Commandments monument [JPG] displayed on the front steps of the courthouse because the display violated the Establishment Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] in February upheld [opinion, PDF] a lower court ruling barring the Ten Commandments [JURIST report] from being displayed in an Ohio courthouse. In January, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously that California's Mount Soledad cross, a 43-foot cross erected as a Korean War veterans' memorial, is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The Sixth Circuit in June 2010 upheld an injunction [JURIST report] against Ten Commandment displays in two Kentucky courthouses, finding that the displays represented simply another strategy "in a long line of attempts" to comply with the Constitution for litigation purposes and did not "minimize the residue of religious purpose." A month earlier, the same court denied an en banc rehearing in another case [opinion, PDF] involving the display of the Ten Commandments in a Grayson County, Kentucky, courthouse. The court found the display to be constitutional because it presented a valid secular purpose from the outset. Highway memorial crosses and crosses on license plates [JURIST reports] have also been found unconstitutional by federal courts.




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

Ethiopia counterterrorism law represses free speech: HRW
Maureen Cosgrove on July 26, 2011 10:22 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the Ethiopian government Monday to stop using a "restrictive and vague" counterterrorism law [press release] to repress free speech. The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 [text; JURIST report] provides for penalties of 10 to 20 years in prison for publishing statements "likely to be understood as encouraging terrorist acts." In July, an Ethiopian court used the law to justify the prolonged detention, without charge, of two journalists accused of conspiracy to commit terrorism. Deputy Africa Director of HRW Rona Peligal urged the Ethiopian government to reject the law:
The Ethiopian government should not rely on an overly broad anti-terrorism law to silence independent reporting in Ethiopia. It should either bring credible charges against the two journalists or quickly release them. Every detainee in Ethiopia should be granted immediate access to counsel and to their families. Accusations under the terrorism law should never mean the denial of basic human rights.
Though Ethiopia's Constitution [text] requires that a detainee have the opportunity to appear in court within 48 hours of detention, the Act extends that time limit to four 28-day periods, or up to four months. HRW also reported that torture is frequent at Ethiopian detention facilities and arrestees are often held without access to legal counsel, thereby intensifying the effects of the law.

Human rights in Ethiopia have been intensely scrutinized by the international community. HRW published a report [text] shortly after Ethiopia enacted the law, expressing concern that the law could "punish political speech and peaceful protest as terrorist acts and encourage unfair trials." The Ethiopian National Priorities Consultative Process [advocacy website] met in July 2009 to agree on a resolution [text, PDF] that expresses concern over civil rights. The group was troubled by proclamations being passed by the ruling regime, calling anti-terrorism laws and others "draconian" and repressive. In January of that same year, the Ethiopian Parliament adopted legislation [JURIST report] to prevent certain foreign charities from being involved in areas that the government believes are internal affairs including human rights and equality. In June 2008, HRW released a report attacking Ethiopian human rights practices in the Ogaden region [JURIST report]. The US House of Representatives passed the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007 [JURIST op-ed], aimed in part at encouraging the improvement of the human rights situation in Ethiopia, but the bill never became law. In July 2007, HRW accused Ethiopian troops of violating international humanitarian law [JURIST report] by burning homes and forcibly relocating civilians in Ogaden.




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

Illinois ex-Governor Blagojevich asks for retrial in corruption case
Chris Morris on July 26, 2011 10:06 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [personal website; JURIST news archive, convicted last month of fraud, bribery, and extortion, filed a motion Monday for a retrial. Last month, Blagojevich was convicted [JURIST report] by a jury in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] on 17 of counts including attempting to sell the Senate seat. He claims [Chicago Tribune report] that his previous trial was subject to judicial bias and error that undermined his case. The motion, while asserting that the court operated with a "closed mind," criticizes U.S. District Judge James Zagel of not giving proper respect to Blagojevich's testimony after assuring the defense that the testimony would be valued in the case. Blagojevich is currently out on $450,000 bail [Politico report] and faces up to decades in prison. The court is expected to respond to the motion sometime next month.

The jury that convicted Blagojevich remained deadlocked [Chicago Tribune report] on a charge of attempted extortion for solicitation of then-congressman Rahm Emanuel, who served as President Obama's chief of staff before being elected mayor of Chicago. Blagojevich was previously found guilty [JURIST report] last year of making false statements to the FBI, but the jury remained deadlocked on 23 additional charges. The prosecutors dropped some of the charges [JURIST report] to simplify the case for retrial including charges for racketeering. Prosecutors also dropped charges against Blagojevich's brother, his chief fundraiser. Blagojevich had tried to avoid the second trial in March, but Judge Zagel declined to formally rule on his request to cancel the trial [JURIST reports], saying that the motion was neither serious nor did it raise a legal question. Blagojevich's lawyers had submitted a motion [text] to cancel the ex-governor's retrial and sentence him only on the single charge on which he was originally convicted.




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

War crimes trial over Guatemala massacre begins
Zach Zagger on July 26, 2011 9:47 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Four former Guatemalan soldiers plead not guilty to war crimes charges Tuesday as the first war crimes trial over the 1982 Dos Erres massacre began. Carlos Antonio Carias, Manuel Pop, Reyes Collin and Daniel Martinez are accused [BBC report] of being members of a military force that allegedly killed more than 250 people in the town of Dos Erres in 1982 during the country's 36-year civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Three of the men were members of a special forces unit known as the Kaibiles, at least part of which is alleged to have played a role in the massacre. The military force was attempting to rout out insurgents during Guatemala's military rule under General Efrain Rios Montt. The four men pleaded not guilty arguing that they were not stationed with the group that carried out the atrocities at Dos Erres. They are accused of killing 201 farmers. There are also allegations [AP report] that many women and girls in Dos Erres were raped and killed during the massacre. The Guatemalan civil war resulted in more than 200,000 deaths, mostly among Guatemala's large indigenous Mayan population. According to a UN report released in 1999, the military was responsible for 95 percent of those deaths.

Earlier this month, the UN said it approved of the arrest [JURIST report] of a former top Guatemalan military figure accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. General Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes, former chief of staff of Guatemalan armed forces from 1982-1983, is accused of directing military attacks against citizens, namely indigenous Mayans. Villages were destroyed and women and girls were systematically raped under his authorization. In response many deaths during the civil war, the Guatemalan government founded the National Compensation Program (PNR) in 2003 to deal with claims by civilians affected by the civil war. The PNR, after setting up its administrative structure, has begun to use its $40 million budget to work through a backlog of more than 98,000 civilian complaints. More than 1,000 complaints were filed in 2008. The PNR hopes to file the majority of the complaints within the next year.




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

Third Circuit rules police can collect DNA sample from arrestees
Maureen Cosgrove on July 26, 2011 9:01 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] 8-6 that law enforcement officers are permitted to obtain DNA samples from arrestees. Law enforcement officers sought a DNA sample from defendant Ruben Mitchell after he was indicted for attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine pursuant to 42 USC § 14135a(a)(1)(A) [text], which permits the collection of DNA samples from individuals who are arrested, facing charges or convicted. Mitchell argued that the DNA collection violated his Fourth Amendment [text] right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The district court agreed, ruling that the DNA collection was unconstitutional. Though the government is permitted to appeal a criminal order in few circumstances, the court permitted the government to appeal the trial court's holding on the grounds that the district court conclusively decided a question of constitutional law and because the ruling resolved an important issue independent from the merits of the action. The appeals court overruled the lower court's decision, concluding that because arrestees have a diminished expectation of privacy, the government's interest in collecting and testing the DNA sample outweighed the intrusion on Mitchell's privacy. The court pointed to the government's compelling interest in identifying suspects and the unique attributes of DNA evidence to reach its conclusion.

US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] instructed federal prosecutors in 2010 to use DNA evidence as much as possible and collect DNA evidence from all federal arrestees [JURIST report], in a reversal of Bush administration policy. In 2009, the US District Court for the Eastern District of California [official website] upheld the constitutionality [opinion, PDF] of mandatory DNA collection for all persons arrested or detained under federal authority, holding that although the collection of DNA from those arrested on federal felony, sexual abuse, or violent crime charges does constitute a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, a person arrested based on probable cause "has a diminished expectation of privacy in his own identity." Federal agencies began collecting DNA samples [JURIST report] in April 2009, although they had been authorized to do so since 2006. About 1.2 million additional people could be added to the FBI's Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) [official website; FBI backgrounder] every year under the expansion, although people who are not convicted can request the destruction [WP report] of their DNA samples. In November 2007, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that all convicted federal felons must provide DNA samples to a federal database available to police departments throughout the country. In 2005, the Third Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that a convicted bank robber had to submit DNA samples to CODIS.




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

Malta parliament passes divorce law
Zach Zagger on July 26, 2011 8:49 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Maltese parliament passed new legislation [text, PDF, in Maltese] Monday legalizing divorce in a historic move for the predominantly Roman Catholic country. The Malta House of Representatives [official website] overwhelmingly passed the bill [AP report] with 52 votes in favor, 11 against with five abstentions, in a country where most laws are passed by one vote. The bill will take effect in October after it is expected to be signed by the Maltese president. The vote reflects the result of a public referendum [JURIST report] on the issue held last May in which the public voted in favor of legalizing divorce with 53 percent of the vote. However, the referendum only reflected 72 percent of eligible voters in one of the lowest turnouts in recent history. Malta does allow for court-ordered separations and residents can apply for an annulment with the Roman Catholic Church [official website]. Malta also recognized foreign divorces, a route which many Maltese couples took in order to obtain a divorce. Malta is the last EU nation not to allow divorce.

Proponents of legalizing divorce argued that it was necessary to reduce the influence of the church in Maltese government and to respect civil rights. Opponents argued that it would encourage the breakup of families and increase separation rates. The change will leave Vatican City and the Philippines the last two countries in with the world that do not allow divorce. Chile was the last country to transition to legalized divorce in 2004 when its new marital code went into effect [JURIST report], replacing the code that had been in force since 1884. The new Chilean law permits divorce in the case of breach of marital duties, such as infidelity or domestic violence, or after a period of separation whose length depends on whether one party or both wish to end the marriage. Malta's vote comes a year after the European Commission (EC) [official website] proposed reforms to simplify and clarify international divorce laws [JURIST report]. Under the proposal, married couples from different EU countries could choose the country of the divorce, and the various courts would use a common formula to decide which country's law applies when a couple disagrees.




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

Advocacy groups challenge New York same-sex marriage law
Maureen Cosgrove on July 25, 2011 2:47 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) and Torah Jews for Decency (TJD) [advocacy websites] filed a complaint [text, PDF] on Monday challenging the Marriage Equality Act [A8354-2011 materials], which allows same-sex couples to marry in the state. The plaintiffs argue, among other claims, that the law was enacted in violation of the New York State Open Meetings Laws [text], that the Senate failed to follow voting procedures and that the Senate conducted lock-outs that denied access to lobbyists and elected representatives. Executive Director at NYCF Rev. Jason McGuire contends that the courts must ensure the lawmakers were not acting unlawfully:
Constitutional liberties were violated. Today we are asking the court to intervene in its rightful role as the check and balance on an out-of-control State Legislature. It is unfortunate that state senators chose to protect their personal interests, rather than the people they were elected to represent. Some of the players may have changed, but it looks like same old Albany game. It is time the curtain be pulled back and the disinfecting light of good government shine upon the Cuomo Administration and our State Legislature.
The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive and declaratory relief.

The challenge comes just one day after New York began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and one month after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) [official website] signed the legislation into law. The New York State Assembly had passed same-sex marriage bills before in 2007 and in 2009, but the bills were unable to pass the Senate [JURIST reports]. Before the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, New York recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states. Earlier this year, the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department [official website] upheld a lower court decision [JURIST reports] allowing the surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage legally performed in Canada to inherit the deceased spouse's estate. With the legislation, New York becomes the seventh US jurisdiction to allow same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is also legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports].




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

Hadzic refuses to plead at ICTY
Maureen Cosgrove on July 25, 2011 2:27 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Accused war criminal Goran Hadzic [ICTY backgrounder] on Monday refused to enter a plea before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. Hadzic was extradited to The Hague [JURIST report] last Friday, where he now awaits trial for war crimes [indictment text]. Hadzic was the last fugitive of the original 161 sought by the ICTY and was arrested last week [JURIST report]. Hadzic waived his right to appeal extradition and, after visiting with a few relatives in Serbia, was flown to The Hague. The court has not set any dates for further appearances. There has been international praise for Hadzic's arrest. Earlier last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] commended [text] President Tadic and the Serbian authorities "for their leadership in ending impunity for those indicted for serious violations of international humanitarian law."

Hadzic was a key player in the Bosnian Civil War [JURIST news archive] and has been at large for approximately seven years. Hadzic's official charges [case information sheet, PDF] are: persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; extermination; murder; torture; inhumane acts; deportation and forcible transfer; cruel treatment; wanton destruction of villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; destruction or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to education and religion; and plunder of public or private property. Hadzic's indictment contends that, in his role as president of the Serbian nationalist forces during the war, he attempted to permanently and forcibly remove a majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from the disputed territory. He is accused of murdering or ordering the murders of hundreds of non-Serb citizens, including children and the elderly. Further, he allegedly displaced more than 20,000 non-Serb civilians. Hadzic was found near the small Serbian village of Krusedol [B92 report], living under a false name. Although he was armed, he did not resist arrest. He was discovered after attempting to sell a painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, in order to obtain funds to facilitate his hiding. Hadzic was also reportedly harbored by members of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) [official website]. Hadzic was the final remaining war criminal at large from the Bosnian Civil War, along with Ratko Mladic [JURIST news archive], who was arrested in May [JURIST report].




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

Turkish court sentences assassin of Turkish-Armenian author
Maureen Cosgrove on July 25, 2011 1:25 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Turkish court on Monday sentenced Ogun Samast for murdering Turkish-Armenian author Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], journalist and former editor of the newspaper Agos [media website, in Turkish], who was shot and killed [JURIST report] in Istanbul in January 2007. Samast, a minor at the time of Dink's death and the primary suspect charged in Dink's murder, was sentenced to 21-and-a-half years [Turkish Weekly report] in prison. He was also sentenced to 16 months in prison for possessing an unlicensed weapon. A separate court is currently hearing cases against two of four other suspects charged in connection with the murder. Eyten Mahcupyan, a Turkish Armenian columnist, and Fethiye Cetin, a lawyer, praised [Reuters report] the court's decision, saying that a tough sentence would deter similar crimes and compel the other courts to hand down equally severe sentences.

In September 2010, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment, in French] that Turkey failed to protect Dink [JURIST report], failed to adequately investigate his murder and infringed on his right of freedom of expression. Dink was convicted in 2006 [JURIST report] of "insulting the Turkish identity" in violation of Article 301 [JURIST news archive] of Turkey's penal code after writing about the killings of an estimated one million Ottoman Armenians [ANI backgrounder; BBC backgrounder] in the early twentieth century. Dink was awaiting a retrial [JURIST report] after his conviction had been overturned, and his writings had prompted death threats from Turkish nationalists.




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

Trial of former Egypt interior minister delayed
Maureen Cosgrove on July 25, 2011 12:25 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] An Egyptian criminal court on Monday postponed the trial of former interior minister Habib el-Adly until August 3. El-Adly and Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] face charges of killing pro-democracy protesters during the demonstrations in Egypt [JURIST news archive] earlier this year. Six of el-Adly's former assistants are also charged with murdering demonstrators [CNN report]. The trial date for Mubarak was set for August 3 at the Cairo Criminal Court [MENA report; JURIST report]. Pursuant to the postponement order, both men are slated to stand trial on the same day.

El-Adly, who was already serving a 12-year prison sentence, was sentenced to five years [JURIST report] in July on corruption charges. Former finance minister Yousef Boutros and former prime minister Ahmed Nazif, along with el-Adly, were ordered to return USD $15 million for a no-bid contract, while Boutros and el-Adly were also fined nearly USD $17 million. In March, a commission of Arab and Egyptian human rights groups accused Mubarak [JURIST report] and the police of murdering protesters during the demonstrations in Egypt. Mubarak could face the death penalty [JURIST report] if convicted of ordering attacks on protesters, and el-Adly's testimony could help prove Mubarak was an accomplice to the killings. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported that at least 840 people were killed [JURIST report], and more than 6,000 were injured, during the Egyptian protests.




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

Syria law to allow political party formation
Maureen Cosgrove on July 25, 2011 10:51 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Syrian government on Sunday approved a draft law that would allow the formation of political parties to oppose the ruling Baath Party, led by President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile]. The law would permit a political party to be established [AP report] so long as it is not based on religious or tribal lines and does not discriminate based on ethnicity, gender or race. Though the draft law, along with other concessions made by al-Assad, is a step toward the reform demanded, protestors seek an end to Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution [text], which declares the Baath Party leader of the state and society. The bill will likely be presented for debate on August 7, and Parliament must approve the law before it is enacted.

Al-Assad spoke at Damascus University in June where he announced that he would soon introduce reforms and present a new constitution [JURIST report], but he spent much of the speech claiming that the protests were part of a conspiracy against Syria. He contends that a group of terrorists is responsible for the vandalism, robberies and murders that have taken place since protests erupted in the country early this year and said that he planned to prosecute and hold those individuals accountable. Earlier in June, al-Assad granted amnesty to political prisoners [JURIST report] including all members of the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB) [party website; JURIST news archive], but opposition leaders dismissed the move and met in Turkey to discuss Syria's future. Syria has come under international scrutiny for using force to suppress the protests across the country. The UN has expressed concern over violence in Syria and urged the Syrian government to stop using force against protesters. Also, Syrian and international human rights groups urged [JURIST report] the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate the hundreds of civilian deaths during protests against al-Assad's government. Nearly 1,200 people have been killed and 10,000 displaced since protests erupted in February.




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

Bahrain commission begins investigation of protest abuses
Maureen Cosgrove on July 25, 2011 8:49 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] An independent commission on Sunday began investigating human rights violations related to the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Bahrain [BBC backgrounder]. The chairman of the five-person Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), Cherif Bassiouni [academic profile], announced that the group's investigation would focus on 30 police officers [Reuters report] alleged to have committed violations of procedural laws, as well as the country's army. Bahraini authorities have promised that the commission will have access to government files and will be permitted to interview witnesses without supervision. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official websites] announced [press release] in June that Bahrain had agreed to permit a UN commission to investigate [JURIST report] human rights violations related to protests shortly after Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] agreed to the investigation [JURIST report]. Thirty-three people died during the unrest and more than 400 were injured. The commission is scheduled to publish the results of the investigation by October 30.

Bahrain, along with several other Middle Eastern and North African nations, has faced criticism from international human rights organizations for its handling of pro-reform protests in recent months. In May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said the government of Bahrain should suspend prosecution of civilians in military courts and set up an impartial commission to investigate torture allegations [JURIST report]. Also in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged the government of Bahrain to release detained activists [JURIST report] and exercise restraint against protesters. She expressed concern over the prosecution of medical professionals and the death sentences [JURIST report] handed to four activists. In April, human rights organizations including HRW and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy website] criticized Bahrain [JURIST report] for human rights abuses related to anti-government protests. In March, the OHCHR expressed concern [JURIST report] over violence against protesters in Bahrain.




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

Canada public provides aid in arrests of two suspected war criminals
Dan Taglioli on July 24, 2011 4:38 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Two suspected war criminals have been arrested in Canada after the federal government announced Thursday it would seek the aid of its citizens in tracking down 30 individuals suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney announced and released a list of the 30 alleged war criminals [materials] suspected to be hiding in Canada, including the men's photos, birthdates and other information. The list was posted on the website of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) [official website], and the public responded. Just one day after the announcement, the Canadian public's tips led to the separate arrests of two men, Arshad Muhammad of Pakistan, and former Honduran soldier Cristobal Gonzalez-Ramirez. Each had evaded arrest for several years and was found in Canada as a direct result of public tips. Toews said [press release] Saturday:
The help that Canadians are providing to Canada Border Services is proving to be beyond what we had expected. ... Those who have been involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity will find no haven on our shores; they will be located, and they will face the consequences.
The ministers also thanked the public for their assistance and reminded them that all that members of the public should report tips to the CBSA or police, and not take action to apprehend the individuals listed on the website.

In 2000 Canada ratified its Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act [text, PDF] "respecting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to implement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court [materials], and to make consequential amendments to other Acts." The Act provides universal jurisdiction for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This allows the Canadian government to prosecute any person who committed an applicable offense 1) if at the time of the offense either the offender or the victim was a citizen of either Canada or its ally in an armed conflict, or 2) if after the the time of the offense the person is present in Canada. The first person convicted under the Act was Rwandan Hutu Desire Munyaneza [The Hague Justice Portal profile], who was convicted [JURIST report] in May 2009 of seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder], and was sentenced to life imprisonment [JURIST report]. A second Rwandan genocide suspect, Jacques Mungwarere [The Hague Justice Portal profile], was charged [JURIST report] later that year and was indicted under the Act in May 2010 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and two counts of genocide. He has not yet stood trial, but his indictment was filed under section 577 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which can permit a case to be sent straight to trial without a preliminary inquiry.




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

Belgium burqa ban takes effect
Jennie Ryan on July 24, 2011 12:30 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Belgium implemented a law on Saturday banning women from wearing the Islamic burqa in public. The measure was initially passed by the Belgian Federal Parliament in April 2010 by a vote of 136-1. Under the new legislation, any woman who wears a burqa in public faces the possibility of a fine or up to seven days in jail [ABNA report]. Opponents of the controversial law allege that such a ban is discriminatory against Muslims and that a ban violates human rights. The Council of Europe [official website] commissioner of human rights Thomas Hammarberg [backgrounder] denounced the legislation [JURIST report] in a written comment [text] stating "In fact, the banning may run counter to European human rights standards, in particular the right to respect for one's private life and personal identity." A court challenge has been launched by two women who wear burqas charging that the measure is a violation of religious freedom.

Belgium is not the first EU country to enact legislation banning the wearing of full face veils in public. In April, France enacted [JURIST report] a law similar to that of Belgium after its Constitutional Court [official website, in French] ruled the legislation was constitutional [JURIST report]. Under the French law, violators wearing a face covering may be fined up to 150 euros and/or required to attend citizenship classes. In contrast, anyone convicted of forcing a woman to cover her face may be fined up to 30,000 euro and jailed for one year [AFP report, in French], and the penalties double if that woman is a minor. The French ban is not exclusive to the burqa, prohibiting any covering of the face in a public place [Metro report].




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

South Korea enacts chemical castration law
Jennie Ryan on July 24, 2011 11:24 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The South Korean Ministry of Justice [official website] announced on Sunday that it has enacted a law which allows the use of chemical castration on sex offenders convicted of attacking children under the age of 16 years old. The bill passed [AP report] in the National Assembly [official website] last year 137-13 with 140 legislators declining to cast a vote. According to an anonymous ministry official, "The law takes effect immediately," and dozens of convicted sex offenders could be sentenced [Reuters report] to chemical castration under the legislation this year alone. South Korea is the first Asian country to enact the controversial legislation.

The chemical castration process consists of a series of chemical injections that hinder the effects of the male hormone testosterone. Other countries have considered enacting similar legislation. Earlier this month Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] proposed a bill [JURIST report] calling for, among other penalties, chemical castration of individuals convicted of sexual offenses against children. In the US, several individual states have enacted legislation allowing for chemical castration of convicted sex offenders including California [materials], Florida [materials] and Louisiana [materials].




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

UN officials warn of possible Syria human rights abuses
Daniel Makosky on July 23, 2011 4:23 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Two UN rights officials on Friday expressed concern [press release, PDF] over reports of violence used by Syrian authorities against the country's own people. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng [official profile, PDF] and Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Edward Luck [academic profile] stated that reports of Syrian forces killing or arbitrarily arresting peaceful protesters indicate potentially grievous violations of international human rights laws, and urged officials to adhere to the government's 2005 pledge to protect its citizens. They also called on Syria to grant UN officials access in order to conduct humanitarian and investigatory missions, saying:
Based on available information, the Special Advisers consider that the scale and gravity of the violations indicate a serious possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed and continue to be committed in Syria. They underline the need for an independent, thorough, and objective investigation of the events in the country. They call on the Government of Syria, as the Secretary-General has done, to allow humanitarian access to affect areas and to facilitate the visit of the Human Rights Council-mandated fact finding mission so that it can complete its work. Without these steps, it will be very difficult to defuse existing tensions and to prevent the escalation of violence.
The statement comes as violence in the country continues, and some allege that official misconduct has intensified [AFP report] in the days immediately prior to Ramadan beginning on August 1.

There has been a major struggle to put an end to Syrian violence since the protests began earlier this year. Earlier this month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] documenting alleged crimes against humanity during an operation to suppress demonstrations, including killings, mass arrests, arbitrary detentions and torture. In June, Syrian and international human rights groups urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate the hundreds of civilian deaths during protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile]. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], in an emergency special session in April, publicly condemned [JURIST report] the violence used by Syrian authorities against peaceful demonstrators and called for a full investigation. Days earlier, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for Syria to immediately halt the killings [JURIST report] and violence against civilian protesters. Over one thousand people have been killed and 10,000 displaced since protests erupted in February.




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

Ninth Circuit again partially reinstates 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'
Daniel Makosky on July 23, 2011 3:01 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Friday ordered [text, PDF] that "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive], the controversial policy barring openly gay individuals from serving in the military, will remain partially in effect during the 60 days prior to its newly-scheduled repeal. The court effectively reiterated its order issued [JURIST report] last week, in which it reinstated DADT, but explicitly ordered the military to refrain from investigating, penalizing or discharging any of its members as originally provided for under the policy. Hours earlier, President Barack Obama [official website], Defense Secretary Leon Panetta [official profile] and the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified [text, PDF; JURIST report] DADT's repeal, scheduling the policy to end September 20. The order allows the court to continue its consideration of the issues concerning the policy's complete repeal.

Last week's order followed an emergency motion made by the Obama administration asking the court to reinstate DADT [JURIST report], arguing that the Ninth Circuit's decision earlier in the month to order a stop to the policy [JURIST report] was misguided and would hinder the repeal process already underway. In November, the court issued the original stay [JURIST report] suspending enforcement of the injunction against DADT. The government had requested that the litigation be placed on hold in light of the passage of legislation to repeal the policy [JURIST report]. After hearing seven months of arguments and briefs, the Ninth Circuit rejected that appeal and lifted the stay. Since DADT's 1993 enactment, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.




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

Federal judge reduces $1.5 million jury verdict in music file-sharing case
Ashley Hileman on July 23, 2011 1:58 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A federal judge on Friday reduced [order, PDF] a $1.5 million jury verdict against a Minnesota woman who was found to have willfully shared music files to $54,000. Chief Judge Michael Davis of the US District Court for the District of Minnesota [official website] described the court as "intimately familiar" with the case against Jammie Thomas-Rasset, as it has presided over three trials on the matter. In granting Thomas-Rasset's Motion to Amend or Alter the Judgment, Davis emphasized the fact that she is a "first-time willful, consumer infringer of limited means who committed illegal song file-sharing for her own personal use." Accordingly, Davis found the award of $1.5 million to the plaintiffs, members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [trade website], "appalling" and inconsistent with due process. Instead, RIAA will be awarded $2,250 for each of the 24 songs Thomas-Rasset was found to have illegally shared.

The $1.5 million jury verdict against Thomas-Rasset was handed down in November 2010, during a third trial requested by RIAA based solely on the issue of damages. This request came after an order from Davis in January 2010, to reduce [JURIST report] a $1.92 million jury verdict against Thomas-Rasset to about $54,000. The $1.9 million verdict stemmed from a trial in June 2009, in which a federal jury in Minnesota assessed damages [JURIST report] at $80,000 per song. The jury found her to have willfully violated copyright law by sharing songs on KaZaA, which has since become a legitimate music purveyor. Those proceedings against Thomas-Rasset were a retrial of a previous judgment against her, granted by a federal judge on the grounds that the court erred by instructing the jury that making the music available on the KaZaA network was enough to violate the Copyright Act and that the $222,000 in damages [JURIST reports] was excessive. In 2008, the RIAA said that it would discontinue its controversial policy [JURIST report] of suing suspected file-sharers and instead will seek cooperation with major Internet service providers to cut off access to repeat offenders.




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

Federal appeals court dismisses former Guantanamo detainees' habeas petitions
Ashley Hileman on July 23, 2011 12:26 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that two former Guantanamo detainees cannot continue to litigate their habeas corpus petitions and refused to order the Government to rescind their designations as "enemy combatants." Nazul Gul and Adel Hamad were detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] for several years, during which they filed petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, but each was transferred to the custody of other foreign sovereigns before the merits of their petitions were ruled upon. Accordingly, both men remained designated as "enemy combatants," a label which they claim has resulted in collateral consequences that continue to burden them. Gul and Hamad argue that the harm they suffer from their status as "enemy combatants" is sufficient to warrant a judicial remedy. The court rejected this argument however, as each of the harms alleged was either unable to be redressed by the court or too speculative to sustain the exercise of federal jurisdiction. Judge Douglas Ginsburg, discussing one of the alleged harms, wrote:
Gul and Hamad next argue that because they are designated enemy combatants, the United States does not consider them "civilians"; and, therefore, under the laws of war, it may recapture, again detain, and even kill them. This claim of injury is the most speculative of all: The appellants apparently have no basis whatsoever for believing the Government might pursue them because of their continuing designation (or for that matter, any other reason). Indeed, the Government no longer attaches any legal significance to the term "enemy combatant."
The court's ruling affirmed that of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], which had previously dismissed as moot [JURIST report] 105 habeas petitions of non-citizen former detainees who are no longer in US custody. Friday's decision affects the status of those individuals as well.

Earlier this month, an EU official told the Miami Herald that Europe is still willing to resettle [JURIST report] Guantanamo detainees despite Congress' efforts to prevent closure and transfers. In a display of commitment to a 2009 agreement [JURIST report] with the US, the EU reiterated that detainees would still be accepted on a case-by-case basis. So far, 27 detainees have been transferred to European countries including Germany, Italy, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia and Belgium [JURIST reports]. With 171 detainees left at Guantanamo, the EU's support of transferring detainees comes just weeks after US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] defended his plans [JURIST report] to prosecute terror suspects in federal civilian courts, responding to harsh criticism from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) [official website] urging two Iraqi-born terror suspects in Kentucky be sent to Guantanamo.




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

Obama certifies 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' repeal
Jaclyn Belczyk on July 22, 2011 6:24 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Friday certified [text, PDF] the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive], the controversial policy barring openly gay individuals from serving in the military. The repeal was also certified by newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Leon Panetta [official profile] and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and delivered to Congress. Panetta [statement] called the change "essential to the effectiveness of our all-volunteer force." Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen [statement] said that he "believe[s] the U.S. armed forces are ready for the implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Obama [statement] praised the repeal:
Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality. ... As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal. As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.
The repeal will take effect in 60 days.

Obama signed [JURIST report] the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 [HR 2965 materials] into law in December, shortly after it was approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives [JURIST reports]. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ordered DADT to remain partially in place [JURIST report] in order for the court to fully consider the issues concerning the policy's complete repeal. The Ninth Circuit had previously ordered a halt to the policy's enforcement, prompting the Obama administration to ask the court to reinstate the policy [JURIST reports] until the repeal process was complete.




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

Ghana rights group warns of anti-gay crackdown
Julia Zebley on July 22, 2011 2:29 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana (CEPEHRG) [advocacy website] warned Friday that the nation is on the verge of an "anti-gay hate campaign," following reports of government-endorsed anti-gay sentiments. A spokesperson for the CEPEHRG said that the nation's largely underground LGBT community is in a panic [Reuters report] over recent remarks by Western Region Minister Paul Evans Aidoo [official profile], who is also a member of parliament. In June, Aidoo called for investigations [MyJoyOnline report] into homosexuals living in Ghana, stating that Ghana's intelligence agency the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the Ghana Health Service and other non-government agencies were working together on the issue. On Wednesday, Aidoo suggested that soon the government will be arresting all homosexuals [MyJoyOnline report] via the BNI. Aidoo encouraged landlords to inform on tenants they see engaged in homosexual activity and criticized the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) [advocacy websites] for not revealing the names of approximately 8,000 homosexual men registered with their organization. Homosexuality is currently a misdemeanor under Ghana's criminal code, but several legal professionals in Ghana have opined that the law would not hold if tested in the Supreme Court.

Last month, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed [JURIST report] the "Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity" resolution [text, PDF] with a vote of 23-19 and 3 abstentions [UN webcast archive]. All African nations involved voted against the resolution except for South Africa, where gay marriage is legalized. As of the 2011 International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) [advocacy website] State-Sponsored Homophobia report [text, PDF], 76 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships, and five enforce the death penalty against homosexuals.




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

UN urges DRC to prosecute perpetrators of mass rapes
Julia Zebley on July 22, 2011 1:11 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) in conjunction with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official websites] released a report [text, PDF] on Friday accusing soldiers in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) of committing mass rape in last summer's conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) [BBC backgrounder]. The report is the first to officially provide evidence that national forces perpetrated mass rape, as opposed to reports of opposition forces using it as a weapon [JURIST report]. Some soldiers in the FARDC allegedly raped 47 women, including a minor, in villages of Bushani and Kalambahiro. The UN also admitted that they had likely given aid to the attackers shortly before the incident.
In addition, during its investigation missions in Bushani, the team found packagings bearing the references of food rations distributed to "screened" battalions which received support from MONUSCO within the framework of Operation "Hatua Yamana." In so far as the investigations carried out by the team could establish the presence of the 2331 battalion in particular in the area of the villages attacked between the end of December 2010 and the beginning of January 201129, it cannot be excluded that the alleged perpetrators of the violations were FARDC soldiers who had received support from MONUSCO.
MUNUSCO was chastised, and the report recommended they better monitor the support they give to the FARDC. The report criticizes the Congolese government's lack of investigation into FARDC as possible perpetrators and pleaded for further judicial action to prosecute rapists. Also, the report emphasized the need to protect survivors of rape from reprisals, which has been a frequent occurrence to silence victims.

In February, a military court found Lt Col Kibibi Mutware guilty of involvement in mass rapes [JURIST report] that took place on New Year's Day and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment, dismissing him from the military. This has been the only action taken on the issue. DRC has been struggling with a number of human rights issues. Last month, a military court sentenced four policemen to death for killing prominent human rights activist Floribert Chebeya last year. In early October, Human Rights Watch called for the DRC government [JURIST report] to arrest general Bosco Ntaganda pursuant to an outstanding warrant for war crimes issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Earlier that same week French authorities arrested a leader [JURIST report] of the FDLR for crimes committed by that group in the DRC. In October, UN peacekeeping forces and the DRC government arrested Mai Mai Cheka [JURIST report] for allegedly leading a rebel group responsible for mass rapes in the country.




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

Federal appeals court throws out SEC proxy access rule
Maureen Cosgrove on July 22, 2011 12:13 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday overturned [opinion, PDF] the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] "proxy access" rule. The rule allowed certain shareholders to have their board nominees listed on company-mailed proxy ballots that also list the management's preferred candidates. Otherwise, the shareholders would incur the costs of mailing out separate ballots. The petitioners, the US Chamber of Commerce (COC) and the Business Roundtable [official websites], argued that the SEC failed "adequately to consider the rule's effect upon efficiency, competition, and capital formation" in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act [5 USC § 551 text]. The three-judge panel agreed, calling the rule "arbitrary, capricious, [and] an abuse of discretion." President and CEO of the COC Thomas Donohue welcomed the court's decision:
This is a big win for America's job creators and investors. We applaud the court's decision to prevent special interest politics from being injected into the boardroom. Companies and directors need to continue to focus on the important work of creating jobs and reviving our economy. Today's decision also sends a strong message that regulators need to meet their statutory requirement to clearly prove that the benefits of regulation outweigh the costs.
The SEC has failed in this same court to enforce similar laws on three other occasions, though it will now have the opportunity to reevaluate and potentially reissue the rule.

Some investor groups, including labor unions and pension funds, espouse proxy access rules, arguing that such rules ensure that company management is held accountable [WSJ report]. Companies, however, contend that proxy access rules give too much power to minority or special interest groups. The SEC was authorized to implement proxy access rules under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act [text, PDF], which was signed into law [JURIST report] by President Barack Obama in July 2010 and created the new regulatory council to monitor financial institutions in order to prevent companies from becoming "too big to fail." In addition to creating the US Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) [offical website], this legislation also gives the Federal Reserve [official website] new oversight over the largest financial institutions, creates a bureau of consumer protection, introduces multitudes of new regulations on derivatives and other financial instruments and limits the amount of capital banks can invest in hedge funds. In June 2009, the administration proposed a broad series of regulatory reforms [press release; JURIST report] aimed at restoring confidence in the US financial system in the wake of economic crisis [JURIST news archive].




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

Mexico AG purges office, charges 111 officials with corruption
Julia Zebley on July 22, 2011 11:02 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Following Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chavez's resignation [JURIST report] in April, the Attorney General's Office (PGR) [official website] charged 111 officials who served under him with corruption on Thursday. Sixty-seven were charged [El Sol de Mexico report, in Spanish] with fraud while others were charged with varying offenses including falsifying documents, theft, interfering with administration of justice, misusing public service, abuse of power, lying in court, bribery, embezzlement and forgery. Twenty-six were issued arrest warrants. On Friday, Attorney General Marisela Morales also fired 140 police officers [CNN report] and released that 280 more under investigation within the organization. Of those fired, several were charged with having connections to organized crime, murder, robbery and extortion, while seven were fired due to convictions on kidnapping, murder and extortion charges, all stemming from Mexico's rampant drug trade problem.

Mexico has struggled to combat the drug cartels' influence on the government and the country as a whole. There have been more than 27,000 drug-related deaths since 2006 [STRATFOR report], and the violence has steadily escalated over the last few years. In April 2009, Mexico's Senate passed a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] permitting the seizure of suspected drug traffickers' property prior to their conviction. In 2008, a former assistant attorney general was arrested for receiving bribes, and Mexico's prosecutor's office admitted that it had been infiltrated [JURIST reports] by the drug cartels.




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

North Dakota court temporarily blocks medical abortion law
Maureen Cosgrove on July 22, 2011 10:40 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A North Dakota judge on Thursday issued a temporary injunction [press release] against a state law [HB 1297 text] that effectively bans non-surgical abortions [JURIST news archive]. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] filed a complaint [text] challenging the North Dakota and seeking an injunction [JURIST report] on Monday. The law restricts the use of mifepristone, misoprostol [FDA backgrounders] and other drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] to induce first-trimester abortions. The complaint, filed on behalf of the sole abortion provider in the state, alleges that the law would altogether prohibit medication abortions, preventing women who prefer the non-surgical abortion procedure from obtaining treatment. The plaintiffs also contend that the law is impermissibly vague, constitutes an improper delegation of legislative authority, violates the privileges and immunities and bodily integrity rights of women, and creates an undue burden, among other challenges. North Dakota Supreme Court [official website] Judge Wickham Corwin said "the public is best served if these questions are considered before the challenged provisions are enforced." CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup welcomed the injunction and condemned the law:
We are extremely pleased that, for the time being, women in North Dakota will still have access to an alternative to surgical abortion that has been widely recognized as safe and effective by medical experts and organizations around the world. This law has nothing to do with protecting women's health—it defies reason, science and medical expertise in a clandestine attempt to limit women's access to abortion.
The law, which was slated to take effect on August 1, will not be enforced until a hearing takes place on August 29.

North Dakota is one of many states to introduce more restrictive abortion regulations in recent months. In June, the Ohio House of Representatives [official website] voted 54-43 to approve legislation [HB 125] that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable [JURIST report], which could occur as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. The Iowa House of Representatives [official website] also voted in June in favor of a bill [HF-1736 text, PDF] that would effectively ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy [JURIST report], making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. In May, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] upheld an Ohio law [2919.123 text] that limits the use of the "abortion pill" [JURIST report], overturning a 2006 injunction [JURIST report]. Oklahoma has also prohibited the use of mifepristone [JURIST report]. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].




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

Saudi Arabia anti-terrorism law would thwart political dissent: AI
Maureen Cosgrove on July 22, 2011 9:52 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A proposed Saudi Arabian counterterrorism law [text, in Arabic] would allow authorities to prosecute anti-government protestors, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] announced [press release] Friday. AI revealed that the Draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism seeks to punish those who "question the integrity of the King or Crown Prince," with minimum penalties amounting to 10 years in prison. The law permits authorities to extend detention of suspects without charge or trial and authorizes incommunicado detention. AI also contends that the legislation's definition of "terrorist crimes" is broad and would allow authorities to prosecute protestors for a wide range of conduct. AI Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther expressed concern for the law's implications on human rights and called on Saudi Arabian authorities to reconsider the law:
This draft law poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in the Kingdom in the name of preventing terrorism. If passed it would pave the way for even the smallest acts of peaceful dissent to be branded terrorism and risk massive human rights violations. At a time when people throughout the Middle East and North Africa have been exercising their legitimate right to express dissent and call for change, Saudi Arabian authorities have been seeking to squash this right for its citizens. King Abdullah must reconsider this law and ensure that his people's legitimate right to freedom of expression is not curtailed in the name of fighting terrorism.
AI further claims that the draft law conflicts with international human rights treatises such as the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) [text].

The proposed law comes in response to recent civil unrest in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern and North African nations, but this is not the first time Saudi Arabia has been criticized for rigid counterterrorism practices. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF] in 2009 that Saudi Arabia was illegally detaining thousands [press release] under the auspices of combating terrorism. The report echoed another AI report [text; JURIST report] which claimed that Saudi Arabian officials were allegedly using anti-terrorism measures as an excuse to secretly detain, imprison, torture and even kill thousands of people. In February 2009, the US Department of State released its 2008 Report on Human Rights Practices for Saudi Arabia [text; JURIST report], in which it identified several significant human rights issues, including denial of public trials and lack of due process in the judicial system, detention of political prisoners, incommunicado detention and lack of government transparency. Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz [official website, in Arabic] announced in October 2008 that the kingdom had indicted 991 [Reuters report] suspected al Qaeda members. HRW sought access [HRW request] to the trials in an attempt to ensure compliance with international standards, but was denied.




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

Hadzic extradited to Hague to face ICTY
Julia Zebley on July 22, 2011 9:17 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Goran Hadzic [ICTY backgrounder] was extradited to The Hague [press release] on Friday, where he now awaits trial for war crimes [indictment text]. Hadzic was the last fugitive of the original 161 sought for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] and was arrested earlier this week [JURIST report]. Hadzic waived his right to appeal extradition and, after visiting with a few relatives in Serbia, was flown to The Hague. The date of his initial appearance has not been set. Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said that although he understands The Hague has jurisdiction, he would like Hadzic to face trial in Croatia [B92 report]. There has been international praise for Hadzic's arrest. Earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] remarked [text] that he, "commends President Tadic and the Serbian authorities for their leadership in ending impunity for those indicted for serious violations of international humanitarian law."

Hadzic was a key player in the Bosnian Civil War [JURIST news archive] and has been at large for approximately seven years. Hadzic's official charges [case information sheet, PDF] are: persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; extermination; murder; torture; inhumane acts; deportation and forcible transfer; cruel treatment; wanton destruction of villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; destruction or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to education and religion; and plunder of public or private property. Hadzic's indictment contends that, in his role as president of the Serbian nationalist forces during the war, he attempted to permanently and forcibly remove a majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from the disputed territory. He is accused of murdering or ordering the murders of hundreds of non-Serb citizens, including children and the elderly. Further, he allegedly displaced more than 20,000 non-Serb civilians. Hadzic was found near the small Serbian village of Krusedol [B92 report], living under a false name. Although he was armed, he did not resist arrest. He was discovered after attempting to sell a painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, due to running out of money to facilitate his hiding. Hadzic was also reportedly harbored by members of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) [official website]. Hadzic was the final remaining war criminal at large from the Bosnian Civil War, along with Ratko Mladic [JURIST news archive], who was arrested in May [JURIST report].




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

Ohio collective bargaining law to go before voters in November
Michael Haggerson on July 22, 2011 8:04 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Ohio voters will decide whether to repeal a law [SB 5 text, PDF] limiting the collective bargaining rights of state workers after opponents of the bill gathered 915,456 signatures [press release] Thursday, almost 700,000 more than the required 231,147 signatures. The bill was passed [JURIST report] in March, but will not go into effect until it survives the public referendum in November. The law includes [summary] provisions prohibiting public employees from striking and disallowing public unions to collectively bargain for any reason other than wages or equipment for personal safety. Opponents of the bill argue [Columbus Dispatch report] that it is union busting masquerading as cost control and is an attach on the middle class. Proponents of the bill, including Building a Better Ohio [advocacy website], argue that public unions have grown too powerful and substantial cuts in union power are necessary for budget control.

Anti-union and anti-collective bargaining laws have been a major issue of controversy in the US this year. In March, the New Hampshire House of Representatives [official website] passed an amendment to their current budget that would require public employees to make concessions automatically [AP report] or become at-will employees. Earlier that month Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] limiting the rights of state workers to collectively bargain. Although the law was enjoined by judicial order, it has since been upheld [JURIST reports] by the Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website].




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

Canada crime drops to nearly 40-year low
Chris Morris on July 21, 2011 4:03 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Statistics Canada [official website] reported Thursday that Canadian crime rates have hit their lowest levels [materials] since 1973. Crime fell 5 percent in 2010 to just over two million crimes committed. Experts cite [Toronto Sun report] Canada's aging population as well as keeping children in school longer as major reasons for the decline. The recent statistics have led opponents of the current administration to criticize recent increased funding for crime prevention and prisons. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official website] announced plans last month to pass several crime bills [Huffington Post report] that are estimated to add a billion dollars a year to the budget and 4,000 new inmates a year. New measures include eliminating pardons for sexual crimes against children, establishing minimum sentences for drug offenses and implementing preventative arrests for terrorism suspects.

The Canadian drop in crime mirrors recent trends in the US. In May, the FBI reported that violent crime was down 5.5 percent [JURIST report] from 2009 to 2010. The Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report, January-December 2010 [text] also showed a decrease in murder by 4.4 percent and in rape by 4.2 percent. The highest drop was the decrease in robbery at 9.5 percent. The 5.5 percent decrease was down from the 6.2 percent decrease reported in the 2010 six-month report from January to June [JURIST report].




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

Malaysia urged to release 6 opposition leaders
Julia Zebley on July 21, 2011 3:52 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged the government of Malaysia [BBC profile] to release six leaders [text] of the opposition Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) [party website, in Malay] who are being held for organizing a rally [official website; JURIST report] earlier this month. Originally they were charged with "preparing to wage war against the king," but were released and then immediately re-arrested and held under the Emergency (Public Order and Crime Prevention) Ordinance (EO) [text, PDF], a law that provides for the government to detain someone indefinitely without trial. The EO has been in place since 1969, and its repeal has been sought by HRW [report text] since 1996. The six are reportedly being held in solitary confinement, blindfolded and subjected to continual intense interrogations. There were an additional 21 PSM members who were arrested and are still charged, but are freed on bail. The six have habeas corpus hearings scheduled for Friday in Kuala Lumpur High Court [official website], but it is unknown if the political prisoners will be permitted to attend.

Last year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] urged Malaysia to repeal or amend its internal security laws [JURIST report], which allow indefinite detainment without trial. At the end of an official visit, the group said amending the laws would allow Malaysia to conform to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. Malaysia's internal security laws have been heavily criticized. Last August, a Malaysian court charged 29 protesters [JURIST report] for their alleged involvement in rallies against the country's Internal Security Act. The demonstration was allegedly started by the Abolish ISA Movement [advocacy blog]. The law was protested by an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people in Kuala Lumpur, resulting in 589 arrests and the use of tear gas and water cannons by police. The protesters were charged with aiding an illegal organization or participating in an illegal rally since a police permit was not obtained. At the time, Prime Minister Najib Razak [official website; BBC profile] dismissed the protest as being unnecessary since he previously pledged to review the controversial law.




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

UK court allows Kenya citizens to sue UK government for torture
Maureen Cosgrove on July 21, 2011 3:30 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A UK court on Thursday ruled [text, PDF] that four elderly Kenyans could sue Britain's government on claims related to torture that took place during a 1950s anti-colonial rebellion. The Kenyans, who are now over 70 years old, allege that they were beaten and sexually assaulted [AP report] by British administration officers attempting to quell the Mau Mau uprising [advocacy backgrounder, DOC]. High Court Judge Richard McCombe said the case could proceed despite the government's argument that the alleged abuses occurred too long ago and that all liability of the colonial administration passed to the Kenyan government upon gaining independence in 1963. McCombe said there was "voluminous" evidence suggesting the UK government may be liable to the plaintiffs, but refrained from reaching a judgment on the merits of the plaintiffs' claims. The law firm representing the four Kenyans welcomed the ruling [press release]:
Our clients are delighted that the High Court has rejected the British Government's arguments so emphatically. It is an outrage that the British Government is dealing with victims of torture so callously. We call on the British Government to deal with these victims of torture with the dignity and respect they deserve and to meet with them and their representatives in order to resolve the case amicably.
The claimants are seeking an apology and compensation for the alleged beatings, sexual abuse, and unlawful detention.

The group of four Kenyans [advocacy profiles, DOC], originally five, involved in the country's Mau Mau uprising sued the British government [JURIST report] in June 2009, alleging that they were abused in British prison camps. The Mau Mau rebellion was led by members of the largely impoverished Kikuyu tribe [backgrounder] and lasted from 1952-1960. The uprising was notorious for atrocities committed by both the rebels and British colonial forces. Official casualty figures eventually set the number of European deaths at 32 and the number of Kenyans killed at just over 11,000. Unofficial estimates have put the latter number as high as 50,000 [Guardian report]. Onyango Obama, the Kenyan grandfather of US President Barack Obama, is said to have been detained and tortured during the British government's suppression of the insurgents. Kenya became officially independent from Britain in 1963.




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

Hungary acquittal of accused Nazi to be appealed by prosecution, defense
Julia Zebley on July 21, 2011 3:03 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Both the prosecution and the defense in the case of alleged Nazi Sandor Kepiro have announced they will be appealing a Hungarian court's decision to acquit [JURIST report]. Kepiro was acquitted of participating in the 1942 Novi Sad massacre in Serbia. Prosecutor Zsolt Falvai declared the acquittal unfounded [AP report] and said the three-judge panel had misinterpreted his evidence. The panel found two of his three key pieces of evidence inadmissible: the testimony of a Hungarian Lieutenant in the 1940s who had lied on-record before and was likely under duress, and a prior conviction of Kepiro for the raids that had been annulled. Kepiro persistently denied involvement in the raid and continues to even after his acquittal. His defense lawyer, Zsolt Zetenyi has appealed to the judges to record the acquittal as decided by Kepiro's lack of involvement in the massacre [AP report], not a lack of evidence. Zetenyi and Kepiro's pleas for vindication may not be unfounded, as Kepiro is still being publicized as a war criminal by several Jewish groups. The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) [advocacy website], a Jewish human rights organization committed to finding and prosecuting Holocaust war criminals, located and apprehended Kepiro in 2006. They released a statement [text] after the acquittal, calling the judgment, "an outrageous miscarriage of justice which directly contradicts the extensive evidence of Kepiro's direct involvement and responsibility." A spokesperson for the Novi Sad Jewish community said that a global campaign will be launched to inform the world if the acquittal stands.

Kepiro's prosecution was likely one of the last of an accused Nazi. In May, the trial of accused Nazi guard John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile, JURIST news archive] ended when he was convicted [JURIST report] but released because of his advanced age. An appeal [JURIST report] of his release is pending. In November, Nazi guard Samuel Kunz [Trial Watch profile], 89, passed away [JURIST report] in his home before he could be brought to trial. He was accused of aiding in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people at the Belzec concentration camp [HRP backgrounder].




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

House committee votes for international abortion funding restriction
Chris Morris on July 21, 2011 2:50 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs [official website] Thursday voted in favor of reinstituting a directive known as the "Mexico City policy," or "Global Gag Rule," that prohibits government funding from going to international organizations that perform abortions [JURIST news archive] or provide information, referrals and counselors regarding abortions. The provision, which includes an exception for cases of rape, incest or threats to health, is part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act [text], a larger spending bill. The provision was met with opposition [AP report] by Planned Parenthood Federation of America [advocacy website], various women's rights groups and Democrats including Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) [official website], who filed an amendment [text, PDF] to strike the section before being outvoted. Berman claimed that, "The Global Gag Rule is a harmful policy that prevents poor women and families around the world from gaining access to essential information and health care services," and also that the "language of the bill ... bars ... assistance [in] HIV/AIDS funding, water and sanitation, child survival, and education."

If approved by the House and Senate, the provision would reverse US President Barack Obama's 2009 memorandum that repealed the ban [JURIST report] after reinstatement by the Bush administration. The Gag Rule has been the subject of much debate since the Reagan Administration. The law was named for the location of the UN International Conference on Population (UNICP) held in Mexico City in 1984, where it was originally announced. The funding ban was enacted that same year, but was repealed in 1993 by former president Bill Clinton. The ban was overturned in 2001 [memorandum text] by then-president George W. Bush. In 2007, the US House of Representatives passed a measure [JURIST report] that would have reversed the funding restrictions, but the bill was never approved by the Senate.




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

Rights groups seek to bar Alabama immigration law
Maureen Cosgrove on July 21, 2011 1:54 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA) [advocacy websites] and several other civil rights groups jointly filed a motion for preliminary injunction [text, PDF] on Thursday in an effort to prevent an Alabama immigration law from taking effect on September 1. The motion, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama [official website], claims the controversial Alabama law [HB 56 text] that expands restrictions on undocumented immigrants is unconstitutional. The law contains measures comparable to those passed in Arizona [JURIST report] last year including authorizing police officers to detain an individual on "reasonable suspicion" the individual is in the country illegally, and requirements that businesses use the federal E-Verify system [official website] to determine whether potential employees are legal residents. The rights groups argue that they are entitled to a preliminary injunction because of their substantial likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable injury to plaintiffs and because the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. The rights groups filed [JURIST report] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] earlier this month seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, arguing that HB 56 is preempted by federal law and that, among other constitutional violations, it violates the Fourth Amendment by subjecting citizens and non-citizens with permission to be in the US to unreasonable searches and seizures.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [official website] signed HB 56 into law last month, just one week after it was passed by the legislature [JURIST reports]. In addition to authorizing detention of individuals on reasonable suspicion they are illegal immigrants, the law provides harsh restrictions on employment for illegal immigrants. Businesses cited multiple times for hiring undocumented workers could lose their business licenses. Furthermore, undocumented immigrants are prohibited from applying for a job, and anyone transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants will be punished by a fine or jail time. In May, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled [JURIST report] in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [Cornell LII backgrounder] that an Arizona employment law that imposes penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants is not preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) [text]. The ruling opens the door for states to enact similar restraints on immigration. Similar laws have been passed in Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah [JURIST reports]. Federal courts have enjoined laws in Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, Oklahoma and Utah [JURIST reports].




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

Accused Somali pirates plead not guilty in hijacking that killed 4 Americans
Chris Morris on July 21, 2011 11:50 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Three accused Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Wednesday to hijacking a US vessel that resulted in the deaths of four US citizens. Their charges included [AP report] murder, piracy, hostage taking and violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, among other charges. The men were charged earlier this month [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] and could face the death penalty, which is under consideration by US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website]. At the arraignment, each man requested a jury trial. Due to language barriers and the international nature of the crimes, the trial is expected to go into 2012.

The men are accused of hijacking a US yacht called Quest in February, an incident where four American citizens were taken hostage and later killed by the pirates. They were the first US citizens to die in the recent wave of international maritime piracy attacks. In March, a grand jury in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia indicted 14 suspects, 13 Somali and one Yemeni, for hijacking the Quest. The Yemeni suspect pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in July and awaits sentencing scheduled for October. Several other suspects pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in May. Earlier this month, five Somali pirates went on trial [JURIST report] in a Dutch court for hijacking a South African yacht and kidnapping its crew. In April, a Somali pirate was sentenced [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] to 25 years in prison for attacking a Danish ship off the coast of Somalia in 2008, for which he and other pirates received a $1.7 million ransom. In May, courts in both Spain and South Korea [JURIST reports] sentenced Somali pirates to life imprisonment.




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

Security Council declares global warming threat to international security
Julia Zebley on July 21, 2011 11:46 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] on Wednesday made their first official statement [text, PDF] implicating climate change as a serious threat to world peace and security. At the urging of Germany, which released a Concept Note [text] to lead the discussion, the Security Council debated global warming [EPA materials; JURIST news archive] for the first time since 2007. Although Germany pushed for plans of action to be produced on extreme temperatures, rising sea-levels, climate refugees and food shortages, the Council ended up issuing a brief statement instead. The language was reportedly not as strong as some of the nations wanted [BBC report], as Russia pushed for the phrase "possible security implications" in the official text, and denied the other countries the creation of a "green helmets" peacekeeping force [Guardian report] that would step into conflicts where environmental resources become scarce. The statement does affirm that depleting resources has been, and will continue to be, the cause of several international conflicts:
The Security Council notes that in matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security under its consideration, conflict analysis and contextual information on, inter alia, possible security implications of climate change is important, when such issues are drivers of conflict, represent a challenge to the implementation of Council mandates or endanger the process of consolidation of peace. In this regard, the Council requests the Secretary-General to ensure that his reporting to the Council contains such contextual information.
China also felt the debate was inappropriate for the Security Council, arguing the organization should focus strictly on peacekeeping missions. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] made remarks [text] on climate change to the Council, explaining why such a discussion is appropriate:
We must make no mistake. The facts are clear: climate change is real; it is accelerating in a dangerous manner; and it not only exacerbates threats to international peace and security, it is a threat to international peace and security. Extreme weather events continue to grow more frequent and intense in rich and poor countries alike, not only devastating lives, but also infrastructure, institutions, and budgets—an unholy brew which can create dangerous security vacuums. Pakistan, the Pacific Islands, Russia, Western Europe, the Philippines, Colombia, Australia, Brazil, the United States, China, the Horn of Africa—these examples should remind us of the urgency of what we face.
A presidential statement typically occurs when the Council cannot reach enough of consensus to pass a resolution. Security Council members may abstain from a statement, but none did in this instance. Statements are not legally binding to countries in the UN.

In December 2007, the UN Climate Change Conference [official website] agreed in Bali, Indonesia, to a timetable for negotiating an international treaty on global warming [JURIST report]. Under the "Bali Roadmap" [text, PDF; press release, PDF], the 187 participating nations pledged to a negotiate a new agreement to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol [text; JURIST news archive] at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. This resulted in the Copenhagen Accord [text, PDF], which is not legally binding nor replaces the Kyoto Protocol, but endorses the continuation of the Protocol. The 2010 UN Climate Change Conference also resulted in no major binding agreements for nations. The next climate change conference is scheduled for November 2011.




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

War crimes affecting Somalia children: AI
Maureen Cosgrove on July 21, 2011 11:19 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Somali children continue to be victims of war crimes [press release], Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said Thursday. In a report [text, PDF] entitled "In the Line of Fire: Somalia's Children Under Attack," AI provides evidence indicating that armed conflict in areas of Somalia has led to deteriorating human rights conditions, particularly for children. Armed military and civilian forces, like the Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder], regularly recruit Somalian children to serve as soldiers, often denying access to education and placing the children in danger of death and injury. The report contains vignettes illustrating the impact of fighting outbreaks on Somali youth. AI Deputy Director for Africa Michelle Kagari describes some of the human rights abuses Somalian children experience:
Somalia is not only a humanitarian crisis: it is a human rights crisis and a children's crisis. As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time: you can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by al-Shabab because you are caught listening to music or 'wearing the wrong clothes', be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents or even die because you don't have access to adequate medical care.
AI expressed concern that human rights abuses in Somalia are under-reported because dangerous conditions prevent accurate, comprehensive reporting. AI also enumerated recommendations for protecting children, including calls to monitor military recruitment more effectively, initiate investigations and cooperate with international human rights organizations.

Somalia has come under fire for its poor human rights record. The 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials], released in April by the US Department of State (DOS) [official website], outlined rights set-backs [JURIST report] under the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, but noted progress in Somalia [material], particularly in the autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said that human rights violations committed during recent Somalian conflicts, including recruitment of child soldiers, may amount to war crimes [JURIST report]. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] in 2008 that war crimes and other human rights violations are being committed in the ongoing Somali conflict [BBC backgrounder]. Somalia has endured a lengthy civil war and several rounds of failed peace talks [BBC timeline] since the collapse of its last civil government in 1991. In January 2007, the transitional government began imposing martial law [JURIST report] over areas under the government's control. In August 2007, HRW reported that war crimes were rampant [JURIST report] in Somalia.




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

Ivory Coast sets up commission to investigate post-election violence
Chris Morris on July 21, 2011 10:01 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara [BBC profile] signed a decree [text, PDF] Wednesday establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate crimes and human rights violations that took place during post-election violence [JURIST news archive] between pro-Ouattara forces and forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile]. The commission will investigate the abuses and provide recommendations [Reuters report] for implementing measures to prevent similar incidents. Ouattara promised to "take legal action against the perpetrators" if necessary and called on the commission to cooperate with international human rights organizations working to uncover details about the abuses. The Ivory Coast had announced last month it would establish its own commission [JURIST report] to investigate alleged crimes committed as a result of disputed presidential elections. Ouattara gave the commission six months to report the results of the investigation.

The commission is not the first effort to investigate violence in the country. Last month, the Ivory Coast granted permission [JURIST report] to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to proceed with an investigation into the violence. An official for the UN's International Commission of Inquiry also called for an investigation [JURIST report] into Ouattara and his forces' continuing attacks against Gbagbo supporters last month. Earlier in June, the Ivory Coast issued international arrest warrants [JURIST report] for Gbagbo aides. The prosecutor's office in the capital Abidjan issued the warrants [Reuters report], most notably for Charles Ble Goude, the leader of Gbagbo's youth militia, accusing him of inciting ethnic violence and attacks against UN workers. Other members of Gbagbo's government also had warrants issued for them including the government spokesman Ahoua Don Mello, industry minister Phillipe Attey, and the ambassador to Israel Raymond Koudou Kessie. Twenty-one others already in detention were charged for violence and inciting tribalism and xenophobia. Gbagbo was captured and forced from office [JURIST report] after refusing to leave despite losing last November's election to Ouattara, which resulted in months of fighting between Ouattara's and Gbagbo's forces.




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

Ecuador journalist sentenced in presidential libel suit
Julia Zebley on July 21, 2011 9:15 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] won a criminal libel claim [statement in El Ciudadano, in Spanish] on Thursday against the owners and a columnist of newspaper El Universo [official website, in Spanish], resulting in fines of USD $40 million and a three-year sentence for the offending journalist and editors. Emilio Palacio [Twitter account], Nicholas Perez, Cesar Perez and Carlos Perez, the owners of El Universo, were personally fined $30 million in addition to their sentences, while the newspaper itself was fined $10 million for printing the article. Palacio's editorial, "No to the Lies!" [text, in Spanish] was published in February 2011 and referenced an incident in September 2010 when protesting police officers fired tear gas at Correa, surrounded the hospital at which he was being treated and trapped him there for 12 hours. Palacio's editorial criticized Correa for pardoning the criminals and suggested he was doing so because the "attempted coup" was staged to increase his political power [JURIST report].
What happens is that the dictator finally realized (or his lawyers understood) that's how [staged] the alleged crime of September 30 was, as everything was the result of an improvised script. ... At this point, all the "evidence" to accuse the "coup" is disjointed: the Dictator recognizes that the terrible idea for the Regiment to go to Quito and join the force was his. No one could prepare to kill him because nobody expected it. ... The Dictator should remember, finally, and this is very important for pardons in the future; a new President, perhaps his enemy, could lead him to a criminal court for ordering fire at will and without warning on a hospital full of civilians and innocent people. Crimes against humanity, do not forget, do not prescribe.
Judge Juan Paredas found El Universo in violation of Article 489 of the Criminal Code [text, PDF, in Spanish], "Slander occurs when there is any statement to discredit, dishonor or disparage another person, or any action performed with the same objective." Correa's lawyer, Vera Alembert, may appeal [Bloomberg report] to achieve the $80 million fine he originally sought. Palacio will appeal.

Correa remains resolute that the media in Ecuador is corrupt and must be harnessed. In a statement [El Ciudadano, in Spanish], he called the suit one of his greatest legacies, and that now the Ecuadoran "corrupt press" know they cannot "damage the honor of a person." He also pointed to El Universo's willingness to apologize as a sign of their culpability: "[T]hey knew they had committed a crime, but pride prevented them, as required by the Constitution, to correct [their error]." El Universo, in fact, offered several times to retract the editorial, allow Correa to write his own correction and settle out-of-court, but Correa's lawyer refused their settlement offers [AFP report]. El Universo remains defiant. The newspaper's front page on the day of the verdict displayed a headline of "Condemned" followed by an Ayn Rand quotation: "When you see that men get richer by graft and pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed." El Universo's report [text, in Spanish] states they believe Ecuador's libel laws are in violation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [official website], for using criminal law to punish expressions against public officials. Correa has another suit pending against journalists Juan Carlos Calderon and Christian Zurita for their book Big Brother [Amazon profile], which claimed that Correa's brother had awarded millions of dollars of government contracts to businesses for his own profit. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized Correa rallying against journalists earlier this year and pleaded with him to not prosecute journalists [report text].




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

Australia to sue ex-Guantanamo detainee for book royalties
Maureen Cosgrove on July 21, 2011 9:08 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Australian government announced Thursday that it will sue former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee David Hicks [JURIST news archive] for royalties from his memoir. Hicks spent more than five years without trial in US custody after being captured in Afghanistan following the terror attacks of 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder]. He wrote an autobiography last year entitled "Guantanamo: My Journey," describing his tenure as a detainee. The Australian Director of Public Prosecutions [official website] applied for a restraining order [AFP reporter] and an order to obtain the book's profits, claiming the profits constitute proceeds of a crime. Pursuant to Australian proceeds of crime law amendments tailored specifically to the Hicks case [JURIST report], the ex-detainee is not permitted to profit from his book. Hicks pleaded guilty to a charge of providing material support [JURIST reports] to terrorists at an appearance before a US military commission in March 2007 and was sentenced to nine months in prison. He was then transferred [JURIST report] to a maximum security prison near his hometown of Adelaide, South Australia to serve the remainder of his nine-month prison sentence.

Under the plea agreement, Hicks was required to state that he "has never been illegally treated" while being held as an enemy combatant by the US and that his detention was lawful pursuant to the laws of armed conflict. Hicks was also prohibited from having contact with the media for a period of one year, ordered not take any legal action against the United States for his treatment during his five-year detention, and required to turn over any profits from an eventual sale of his story to the Australian government. Hicks' detention and trial have been heavily criticized, with the Law Council of Australia, for example, calling Hicks' trial a "charade" [JURIST report]. JURIST Special Guest Columnist and former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser argued that Hicks' trial before a US military commission demonstrated the disturbing willingness of two allegedly democratic governments to abandon the rule of law for an expedient and evil purpose in his op-ed entitled "The US, Australia and David Hicks: Abandoning the Rule of Law."




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

Guinea authorities arrest nearly 80 suspects after attack on president
Erin Bock on July 21, 2011 8:34 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Guinea authorities have arrested between 70 and 80 suspects accused of plotting an attack on President Alpha Conde [official website] Wednesday. Assailants launched rocket-propelled grenades at Condes' home, and three people were killed, including one of his bodyguards. The suspects include [Reuters report] former army leader General Nouhou Thiam and a past member of Conde's presidential guard. Conde delivered an address later in the day on state radio assuring investors that the country is not unstable and asking citizens to remain calm [AP report] and unite. The attacks were "strongly condemned" by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] who urged the citizens of Guinea to maintain peace and democracy [statement] in the country. The US Department of State [official website] also issued a statement condemning the attacks [text]:
The Guinean people fought long and hard for the right to choose their leader and have a representative government. Overthrowing a democratic government through force is unacceptable. These violent acts undermine democracy and the rule of law and threaten stability in the region. The United States calls on the people of Guinea to remain committed to the principles of democracy and to express disagreements through peaceful means.
In December, the Supreme Court of Guinea declared Conde the winner [JURIST report] of the country's presidential run-off election held in November. This election ended two years of military rule under a transitional government formed by military captain Moussa Dadis Camara [BBC profile], who staged a coup in the wake of the death of form president Lansana Conte [Guardian profile], who ruled the nation for 24 years.

Guinea was also embroiled in political violence late last year when the presidential election gave way to post-election violence [JURIST report], resulting in the deaths of seven people and causing the government to declare a state of emergency. The deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) lamented the killings along with the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In October, the OHCHR expressed concern that security forces in Guinea "committed serious human rights violations" [JURIST report] in subduing demonstrations. In September, two Guinean election officials were convicted of election fraud [JURIST report] and sentenced to a year in jail in connection with irregularities that arose in the June presidential primary election, one incident in a string of controversies responsible for multiple delays of the runoff, which was initially scheduled for July [Reuters report]. In May, the ICC sent a delegation from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) [official website] to Guinea to further investigate the killing [JURIST report] of more than 150 pro-democracy protesters in Conakry in September 2009. The protesters had rallied against Camara, 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. Camara was ultimately forced into exile two months later after an assassination attempt staged by one of his aides.




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

Bangladesh judge indicts 430 civilians for 2009 mutiny
Julia Zebley on July 20, 2011 3:48 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge in the Court of Metropolitan Sessions, a criminal court in Bangladesh, on Wednesday indicted 430 people for their roles in a February 2009 mutiny [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Bangladesh has conducted a series of military and civil trials for the thousands of citizens and soldiers involved in the mutiny, which left 74 dead. All of the indicted, before the court in shackles, pleaded not guilty [AP report]. Two unnamed politicians were indicted, including a member of the ruling party, the Awami League [official website]. Remaining suspects of the more than 800 civilians arrested will be arraigned on July 27.

Last month, a Bangladesh military court sentenced 657 border guards for their part in the mutiny [JURIST report], bringing the total number of soldiers jailed for the mutiny to more than 3,000. Last January, the civilian trial of 800 soldiers charged [JURIST report] with crimes stemming from their roles in the 2009 mutiny began in the capital city of Dhaka. The trial involves some of the most serious charges with those found guilty facing the death penalty. The trial is expected to last over a year and to include the testimonies of more than 1,000 individuals. In August 2010, a special Bangladeshi military court sentenced [JURIST report] 14 members of the BDR for their roles in the mutiny. The tribunal, led by BDR head Maj. Gen. Mainul Islam, fined each of the men Tk 100 and sentenced [BDNews24 report] them to prison terms ranging from four months to six years, one year short of the maximum possible sentence for rebellion under Bangladeshi law. About 3,500 other soldiers will face lesser charges in military courts.




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

Ohio governor signs bill banning abortions after 20 weeks
Maureen Cosgrove on July 20, 2011 3:43 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Ohio Governor John Kasich [official website] on Wednesday signed into law a bill banning abortions [JURIST news archive] after 20 weeks. The legislation [SB 72 text, PDF] requires doctors to determine the viability of the fetus and seek a second opinion as to whether the child is capable of surviving outside of the womb. In the event that the fetus is viable, an abortion would only be made available if the woman faced "death or a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." Ohio Right to Life [advocacy website] Executive Director Mike Gonidakis applauded [press release] the governor's endorsement of the bill:
In order to protect life, it takes compassionate leadership from our elected officials. By signing this critical pro-life legislation, Governor Kasich demonstrated to all Ohioans that the health and welfare of birth mothers and their unborn children are of paramount importance to the state of Ohio ... From now on, these babies and their mothers will be protected.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio [advocacy website], on the other hand, denounced the legislation [press release], calling it "a serious threat to women's health that opens the door to even more political interference in the doctor-patient relationship." Opponents of the law are attempting to gather signatures [Reuters report] supporting a November voter referendum to repeal the law. The law has yet to take effect.

Ohio's legislation is part of a wave of acts passed by state legislatures since the November elections aimed at restricting abortions in the wake of disputed medical evidence that suggests that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks [Reuters report]. In June, the Ohio House of Representatives [official website] voted 54-43 to approve legislation [HB 125] that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable [JURIST report], which could occur as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. The Iowa House of Representatives [official website] also voted in June in favor of a bill [HF-1736 text, PDF] that would effectively ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy [JURIST report], making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. In May, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] upheld an Ohio law [2919.123 text] that limits the use of the "abortion pill" [JURIST report], overturning a 2006 injunction [JURIST report]. Oklahoma has also prohibited the use of mifepristone, and the drug is slated to be banned [JURIST reports] in North Dakota on August 1. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].




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

Ex-hedge fund trader sentenced to 30 months in prison
Julia Zebley on July 20, 2011 3:31 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Former hedge fund trader Danielle Chiesi was sentenced Wednesday to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] to three criminal counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Chiesi was accused of communicating non-public information about IBM Corporation, Advanced Microdevices (AMD) and Sun Microsystems (now Sun-Oracle) [corporate websites] in 2008 and 2009 to her superiors at New Castle Funds LLC [fund profile], a Manhattan-based investment advisory company formerly part of Bear Stearns [NYT backgrounder]. Chiesi was arrested in 2009 along with Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam [JURIST news archive] and accused of using the information to reap more than $4 million in illegal profits for New Castle. Last week, Chiesi agreed to pay USD $540,000 to settle a civil charge [JURIST report] with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website].

A federal jury convicted [JURIST report] Rajaratnam in May on all 14 counts of insider trading. New Castle is said to have gained at least $1.7 million from the trades. Chiesi reportedly got the information from former IBM executive Robert Moffat, with whom she was having an affair. Moffat is currently serving six months in prison for insider trading in connection with the Galleon case. Moffat was sentenced [JURIST report] in September and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for his role in the scheme after he pleaded guilty [JURIST report] the previous March. 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 2010. 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 non-public information about several corporations upon which the funds traded, generating $25 million in illicit gain. Rajaratnam and Chiesi initially pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in December 2009 after being indicted for insider trading.




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

European rights official denounces burqa bans
Maureen Cosgrove on July 20, 2011 2:27 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Council of Europe (COE) [official website] Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg [official profile] on Wednesday condemned [press release] the flurry of burqa [JURIST news archive] and niqab [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] bans that have been implemented recently around the world. Hammarberg said the bans may not conform to European human rights standards such as the right to respect for personal life and personal identity. He noted that there are sometimes compelling reasons for requiring women to remove the veils in certain circumstances, including safety or for identification purposes. However, he said that the bans are repressive and that targeting women is not the solution. Hammarberg emphasized that the laws could have unintended consequences:
It is more likely that such laws—so obviously targeting the adherents of one religious faith—would further stigmatise these women and lead to their alienation from the majority society. Banning women dressed in the burqa/niqab from public institutions like hospitals or government offices may only result in them avoiding such places entirely. This is not liberation.
Instead of penalizing women, Hammarberg said, governments should take action against hate crimes and discrimination against minorities.

Belgium's interim cabinet announced last week that the nation will be officially banning the burqa [JURIST report] beginning July 23. A French Muslim couple living in the UK filed a challenge [JURIST report] last month in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] over the French ban [materials, in French] on full face coverings. Also in June, a Spanish court upheld a city ban on veils in municipal buildings for identification and security purposes. Under the French ban, people caught wearing facial coverings in public can be fined €150 (USD $215) and/or ordered to take a citizenship class. In addition, anyone convicted of forcing a someone else to cover their face may be fined up to 30,000 euro and jailed for one year [AFP report, in French], and the penalties double if the incident involves a minor. The ban affects citizens, residents and tourists alike, and extends to all public places [Le Figaro backgrounder, in French], including airports, hospitals, government offices and even places of worship that are open to the public. In October, the French Constitutional Council ruled that the ban conforms with the Constitution [JURIST report]. Also in October, Dutch politician Geert Wilders [personal website, in Dutch] said that the Netherlands will ban the burqa [JURIST report] as part of the government's plan to form a minority coalition. In August, 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 two abstaining.




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

California inmates on hunger strike to protest solitary confinement
Julia Zebley on July 20, 2011 2:02 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] At least 400 inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison [official website] have been on a hunger strike since the end of June and are being joined by prisoners in at least 10 other California prisons. Inmates of Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit (SHU), a long-term isolation ward where one-third of the prison's population is held in solitary confinement, are the instigators of the strike, and most of the strikers in other prisons are inmates in solitary confinement. The prisoners demand [advocacy website]: an end to group punishments, abolition of a policy of interrogating alleged gang members for information and punishing them with solitary confinement if the information isn't good enough, prisons abiding by the recommendations in the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons 2006 report [text, PDF], increased quality of sanitary conditions and meals and an expansion of programs for those inmates indefinitely confined in the SHU. At the peak of the strike 6600 prisoners refused meals [Daily Triplicate report], but a prisoner is not considered to be on a hunger strike unless they refuse food for nine consecutive days. Advocates and prisoners' attorneys are claiming some inmates are becoming critically ill [Daily Triplicate report] as a result of the fast, but the California Prison Health Care Services [official website] denies this. The California Prison Health Care Services released a statement [text] that "sufficient medical resources are available to care for inmates who are participating in the hunger strike." California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [official website] spokesperson Terry Thornton also denied that prisoners were put in SHU arbitrarily and stated that there is a continual open dialogue with prisoners. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is also denying the media access to the striking inmates [LAT report].

California has come under criticism in the past year for its overcrowded prison system. In May, the US Supreme Court [official website] upheld [JURIST report] an order requiring California to release up to 46,000 prisoners to remedy the state's overcrowded prisons [JURIST news archive]. The court concluded that the extreme overcrowding of the California prison system is causing inmates to receive inadequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment [text]. In August 2009, a special panel of federal judges ordered [JURIST report] California to reduce its prison population by about 46,000 inmates or construct more facilities to handle the prisoners. Governor Jerry Brown [official website] submitted a plan [press release; materials] in June to reduce the prison population by over 30,000 inmates [JURIST report]. The submitted plan outlines measures that the state was taking to reduce prison populations including the passage of AB 109 [text], which once funded by the legislature, will transfer adult prisoners to local jails. The bill, which is already being implemented, is meant to reduce crowding by restructuring the parole system, providing inmates with more opportunities to earn early release credits, creating an alternative rehabilitative program for parole violators rather than being sent back to prison, and changing the law to increase the threshold for felonies in crimes that could be a misdemeanor depending on the amount stolen. The number of inmates currently in California prisons is approximately 143,500, about a 19,000 inmate reduction from 2006 when the plaintiffs filed their motions to convene the three-judge panel.




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

Republican lawmakers urge Obama to define terror suspect detention policy
Maureen Cosgrove on July 20, 2011 1:03 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Top Republican lawmakers on Wednesday urged [press release] US President Barack Obama to define terror suspect interrogation, detention and prosecution procedures. In a letter [text, PDF] to the president, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee [official website] Howard McKeon and other officials from the Intelligence, Judiciary, Foreign Relations, and Homeland Security Committees criticized the administration for its lack of comprehensive policies for dealing with terror suspects. The letter comes in response to the Obama administration's handling of terror suspect Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, who was brought to the US [JURIST report] in July to face a civil trial in New York, a decision that has sparked harsh criticism from lawmakers who want terror suspects to be held at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detention facility. Warsame was captured by US forces in April [CNN report] somewhere in the Gulf region and detained on a US Navy ship for questioning until being sent to the US for trial. The lawmakers criticized the administration for limiting use of military detention and prosecution and called on Obama to articulate his position on detention policies:
By foreclosing these options and failing to create a long-term detention regime that puts a priority on intelligence collection and keeping terrorists out of the United States—combined with reluctance to consult or collaborate with Congress on these issues—the Administration has forced Congress to take action on these issues. These concerns are only heightened given the decision to handle Warsame's case in a manner that directly contradicts pending legislation.
The lawmakers also pointed to immigration issues that arise when a suspect is detained in the US and discussed the experiences of other countries that have become "safe havens" for terror suspects.

US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] has consistently advocated [JURIST report] that terror suspects be tried in civilian courts despite finding little support from Congress. Last month, Holder gave a speech defending the civil court system for terror suspects [JURIST report] saying he will, "defend the exclusive right of the executive branch to determine appropriate venues and mechanisms for all criminal trials," and that he will, "continue to point [to] one indisputable fact ... proven repeatedly by this administration and the previous one: in disrupting potential attacks and effectively interrogating, prosecuting, and incarcerating terrorists, there is quite simply no more powerful tool than our civilian court system." In April, Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and four other co-conspirators will be tried before a military commission [JURIST report] for their roles in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Holder, who wanted the accused be tried before a federal civilian court [JURIST report], referred the cases to the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] after Congress imposed a series of restrictions [JURIST report] barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the US. Holder refused to delay the trial any longer for the sake of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families, explaining that the restrictions are not likely to be repealed in the immediate future. The Obama administration changed its position despite repeated appeals from rights groups to utilize civilian courts over military commissions for the trials of suspected terrorists. However, international pressure to use civilian courts remains. Last March, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Martin Scheinin [official website] called on the Obama administration to hold civilian trials [JURIST report] for Mohammed and other suspected terrorists saying that the military commissions system is fatally flawed and cannot be reformed.




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

Google gets extension to negotiate book scanning settlement
Julia Zebley on July 20, 2011 12:34 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Tuesday extended settlement negotiations for an additional two months in The Authors Guild et al v. Google Inc. [case materials], a copyright suit filed in 2005 over a Google [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] initiative to scan and catalog books [Google Book Search website] to make them more accessible online. Google and the Authors Guild [advocacy website], a group representation authors and publishers, also received an extension at the beginning of June [Bloomberg report], leading to Tuesday's conference. Judge Denny Chin set a hearing for September 15 and stated that if a reasonable settlement is not reached the parties will go to trial [Bloomberg report]. He also suggested focusing negotiations on an "opt-in" function [NYLJ report] for authors rather than "opt-out." A settlement was reached in March 2009 [JURIST report], but Chin rejected it, partially for allowing authors' silence to operate as an automatic opt-in to the program.

The first settlement agreement was reached [JURIST report] in October 2008, and arguments on the ASA were heard in February 2010, after which Chin announced that he would delay ruling [JURIST report] on the proposed settlement. Earlier that month the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a statement of interest [JURIST report] urging the court to reject the settlement due to copyright and antitrust concerns, and stating that the agreement would provide Google with "anticompetitive advantages" with potentially monopolistic effects. The DOJ's statement of interest was filed after an official inquiry, which was announced [JURIST report] six months after the original settlement agreement was reached. Meanwhile, concerns had been raised in the European Union and elsewhere that Google's book-scanning initiative violated national copyright laws, especially in France where a Parisian court fined Google [JURIST report] €300,000 (USD $430,000) for digitizing books and making excerpts available on the web. The Authors Guild represents several major publishing companies, including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) [association website], McGraw-Hill, Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster [corporate websites].




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

UN dismisses ICTY staff member's appeal of contempt conviction
Julia Zebley on July 20, 2011 11:23 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Tuesday upheld [judgment, PDF; press release] the contempt conviction of former spokesperson Florence Hartmann [BBC profile; ICTY materials, PDF]. A specially appointed chamber found Hartmann guilty of contempt [JURIST report] in 2009 for revealing confidential judicial decisions. Tuesday's judgment reinforced that Hartmann had done irreparable damage to the ICTY's mission:
[T]he Appeals Chamber observes that the Trial Chamber found that the effect of Hartmann's disclosure of confidential information decreased the likelihood that states would cooperate with the Tribunal in the future, thereby undermining its ability to exercise its jurisdiction to prosecute and punish serious violations of humanitarian law. The Trial Chamber further found that prosecuting an individual for contempt under these circumstances was proportionate to the effect her actions had on the Tribunal's ability to administer international criminal justice. The Appeals Chamber is therefore of the view that the Trial Chamber was correct to conclude that Rule 54 of the Rules permits the Tribunal to impose confidentiality in an effort to secure the cooperation of sovereign states. In light of the foregoing, the Appeals Chamber is satisfied that the Trial Chamber adequately took into account all relevant considerations to ensure that its Judgement was rendered in conformity with international law.
Hartmann had been charged [JURIST report] with two counts of contempt for allegedly disclosing protected information of appellate chamber decisions from the trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] in a book and an article she wrote in 2007 and 2008. She was fined €7,000, which the court also upheld.

Hartmann's trial began [JURIST report] in June 2009. At an initial appearance, Hartmann did not enter a plea [JURIST report] and a plea of not guilty was entered on her behalf. Hartmann formally served as the official spokesperson for chief ICTY prosecutor Carla del Ponte [BBC profile]. Before being indicted, Hartmann drew media attention by repeating allegations [JURIST report] that former US president Bill Clinton and former French president Jacques Chirac had planned a campaign [JURIST report] to capture Radovan Karadzic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], but later backed down following a change in policy. Hartmann has also said that Russia aided in moving Karadzic to safety in Belarus, and alleged that the West helped in order to hide information about the Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive].




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

Taiwan launches anti-corruption agency
Maureen Cosgrove on July 20, 2011 11:23 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Taiwan established an anti-corruption agency Wednesday in an effort to quell corruption among government officials. The Agency Against Corruption (AAC) aims to reduce and deter corruption [CNA report], raise conviction rates for corrupt officials and protect human rights. The agency is composed of 180 members who, along with other law enforcement authorities, will handle investigations into ethics violations. Cases will then be turned over to federal prosecutors. Members of the Kuomintang (KMT) [official website, in Chinese], a Taiwanese political party, urged the AAC to promise a 10 percent increase in the country's corruption conviction rate, alleging that citizens are dissatisfied with the current 55 percent conviction rate.

Corruption has become increasingly problematic in Taiwan. Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui was indicted [JURIST report] in June on charges of money laundering and embezzling money from a secret diplomatic fund. Earlier that same month, Taiwan's Judicial Yuan [official website] President Lai Hau-min announced a new law [JURIST report] to remove judges deemed by a committee to have been involved in corrupt activities. In November 2010, the Taiwan Supreme Prosecutors Office indicted 13 people [JURIST report], including three High Court judges, on charges of bribery, corruption and money laundering. The three judges were accused of accepting more than NT $5 million (USD $155,000) from former legislator Ho Chi-Hui [JURIST news archive] in exchange for clearing him of charges related to a corrupt land-development project. Last August, the Taipei Prosecutors Office [official website] conducted raids [JURIST report] on the homes of several High Court judges and 18 other locations searching for evidence related to the bribery deals. The three High Court judges were arrested [JURIST report] on corruption charges in July 2010 and were suspended from duty following their arrests. The judges' indictments follows the Taipei High Court's acquittal [CNA report] of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on charges of embezzling USD $20 million from banks [JURIST report] that sought to protect themselves during Chen's financial reform program. Chen is also appealing a 20-year sentence for corruption and embezzlement.




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

Federal judge permits Toyota appeal of class action ruling
Maureen Cosgrove on July 20, 2011 10:09 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] on Tuesday tentatively ruled that Toyota [corporate website; JURIST news archive] could appeal the ruling in a class action lawsuit [materials] filed over alleged sudden-acceleration defects. Judge James Selna denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] the class action suit against Toyota in May, allowing consumers who had not experienced the acceleration defect to join the class action lawsuit [Reuters report] and seek economic damages. Toyota owners alleged that their vehicles lost value because the company failed to disclose and fix the acceleration problems, a claim Toyota disputes. When Selna finalizes his ruling next week, Toyota will be permitted to appeal the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website].

In December, Toyota settled [JURIST report] US federal investigations by agreeing to pay a record $32.4 million in extra fines for product defects and poor handling of a recall. The fines stem from two investigations conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website]. The first, a fine of $16.375 million, concerned nearly five million vehicles with accelerator pedals entrapped by floor mats, which caused at least one fatal accident in California. The second, a fine of $16.050 million, resulted from Toyota's failure to notify the NHTSA of a safety defect in several Toyota models' steering relay rods. Toyota has been under federal scrutiny since December 2009, and has conducted several recalls. Toyota's product recalls have been analyzed by Forum guest columnist Bruce Aronson of Creighton University School of Law in the op-ed Learning from Toyota's Troubles - Where's the Board? [JURIST op-ed].




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

Serbia captures final ICTY fugitive Goran Hadzic
Julia Zebley on July 20, 2011 9:16 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Serbian authorities on Wednesday arrested [ICTY press release] Goran Hadzic [ICTY backgrounder], the last fugitive of the original 161 sought for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. Serbian President Boris Tadic announced the arrest [B92 report] through a press conference [summary video; full video, in Bosnian], stating that Serbia has fulfilled its obligations to The Hague and was not harboring Hadzic at any time. The Special Court in Belgrade deemed Hadzic fit for extradition immediately after the arrest on Wednesday and he could be deported to The Hague within the week [B92 reports]. ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz [official profile], reacting to the arrest, praised the triumph of international law, but emphasized the need to fully prosecute the indicted [press release]:
As we pause to reflect on the significance of Hadzic's arrest for the Tribunal, we are mindful that the Tribunal is part of a much broader process for establishing accountability for atrocities committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The victims of thousands of other crimes are still waiting for justice. The prosecution of war crimes in national proceedings remains a critical challenge for the region and its people. The Office of the Prosecutor will continue to use its best efforts to assist the fight against impunity in the former Yugoslavia, by providing national prosecutors with information, evidence and expertise. The international community also has a key role to play in ensuring that national prosecutions can successfully take over the Tribunal's work in establishing accountability for the atrocities committed. With Hadzic's arrest we take solace in the knowledge that the Tribunal can now complete its work. But to ensure full accountability for the atrocities committed during the war in the former Yugoslavia, we must also redouble our commitment to supporting the remaining national prosecutions.
Completion of the ICTY is considered the final step before Serbia's accession to the European Union (EU) [official website]. Representatives of the EU released a statement praising Serbia for the arrest [press release], but noted: "Full cooperation with the ICTY continues to be essential on Serbia's way towards the European Union." Reportedly, full recognition of Kosovo [Bloomberg report] also remains a bar for Serbia to reach before accession. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh-Rasmussen also welcomed the arrest [press release].

Hadzic was a key player in the Bosnian Civil War [JURIST news archive] and has been at large for approximately seven years. Hadzic's official charges [case information sheet, PDF] are: persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; extermination; murder; torture; inhumane acts; deportation and forcible transfer; cruel treatment; wanton destruction of villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; destruction or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to education and religion; and plunder of public or private property. Hadzic's indictment contends that, in his role as president of the Serbian nationalist forces during the war, he attempted to permanently and forcibly remove a majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from the disputed territory. He is accused of murdering or ordering the murders of hundreds of non-Serb citizens, including children and the elderly. Further, he allegedly displaced more than 20,000 non-Serb civilians. Hadzic was found near the small Serbian village of Krusedol [B92 report], living under a false name. Although he was armed, he did not resist arrest. He was discovered after attempting to sell a painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, due to running out of money to facilitate his hiding. Hadzic was also reportedly harbored by members of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) [official website]. Hadzic was the final remaining war criminal at large from the Bosnian Civil War, along with Ratko Mladic [JURIST news archive], who was arrested in May [JURIST report].




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

Obama supports DOMA repeal
Maureen Cosgrove on July 20, 2011 9:09 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US President Barack Obama supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive], Press Secretary Jay Carney announced at a White House press briefing [text] Tuesday. Carney also said that Obama supports the Respect for Marriage Act [text], which was introduced by Congressional Democrats [JURIST report] in February to repeal DOMA, the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as a "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." Carney relayed the president's sentiments about repealing DOMA and communicated the president's support for the Respect for Marriage Act:
I can tell you that the President has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people — our families, friends and neighbors. He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Senator Feinstein and Congressman Nadler, which would take DOMA off the books once and for all. This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.
The Senate will hold the first hearing for the Respect for Marriage Act today.

In March, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] announced that he was launching a legal advisory group to defend [JURIST report] DOMA, stating "[t]he constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts, not by the president unilaterally, and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution." Democrats introduced the Respect for Marriage Act following February's announcement by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] that it will no longer defend the constitutionality [JURIST report] of Section 3 of DOMA, which restricts the federal definition of marriage to heterosexual couples, in court cases challenging the provision. The announcement came just one month after the DOJ filed a brief [JURIST report] with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] defending the constitutionality of DOMA. The appeal followed a July 2010 ruling [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which found that Section 3 of DOMA violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment and State Sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment [text]. Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Currently DOMA allows other states to ignore those recognized same-sex marriages, and prevents same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits available to married couples.




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

Federal judge rules Florida courthouse must remove Ten Commandments monument
Maureen Cosgrove on July 19, 2011 2:06 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A federal judge on Friday ordered [text, PDF] Florida's Dixie County Courthouse to remove the Ten Commandments monument [JPG] displayed on the front steps of the courthouse. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLUFL) [advocacy website] filed the lawsuit in early 2007, arguing that the monument violated the Establishment Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Dixie County maintained that the display was protected as private speech under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment [text] because the monument, which cost over USD $20,000 to construct, weighs six tons and includes a banner proclaiming "Love God and Keep His Commandments," was purchased and installed by a private community member. The court, however, ruled that because of the location, "permanent" nature and religious message of the structure, it must be removed. Judge Maurice Paul agreed with the ACLUFL, concluding that the monument's religious message would be interpreted to be espoused by the government:
As noted previously, permanent displays carry the indicia of government speech. This strongly implies endorsement of the message being conveyed. However, beyond the mere permanence of the monument, the context of the display establishes Dixie County's endorsement of its religious message. The monument is five-feet tall, made of six tons of granite, and sits alone at the center of the top of the steps in front of the county courthouse that houses every significant local government office. "No viewer could reasonably think that it occupies this location without the support and approval of the government."
Furthermore, the court held that the monument violates the Lemon test, which states that, "a governmental practice violates the Establishment Clause if it does not have a secular purpose, if its primary effect is to advance or inhibit religion, or if it fosters excessive government entanglement with religion." The monument must be removed from the courthouse steps within 30 days.

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] in February upheld [opinion, PDF] a lower court ruling barring the Ten Commandments [JURIST report] from being displayed in an Ohio courthouse. The Sixth Circuit in June 2010 upheld an injunction against similar displays [JURIST report] in two Kentucky courthouses, finding that the displays represented simply another strategy "in a long line of attempts" to comply with the Constitution for litigation purposes and did not "minimize the residue of religious purpose." A month earlier, the same court denied an en banc rehearing in another case [opinion, PDF] involving the display of the Ten Commandments in a Grayson County, Kentucky, courthouse. The court found the display to be constitutional because it presented a valid secular purpose from the outset. In a 2005 decision, the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of a Ten Commandments display [JURIST report] in a Mercer County, Kentucky, courthouse. A 2005 Supreme Court decision [JURIST report] prohibiting an earlier attempt at a similar display in Kentucky prompted lawmakers to propose a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] to overturn it. On the same day, the Supreme Court ruled that a six-foot-tall display of the Ten Commandments [JURIST report] on the grounds of the Texas state capitol was constitutionally acceptable because it had a secular purpose.




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

Philippines military committing human rights abuses: HRW
Maureen Cosgrove on July 19, 2011 12:20 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Philippine government has failed to investigate and prosecute extrajudicial killings tied to the country's military, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] announced [press release] Tuesday. In a report [text, PDF] entitled "No Justice Just Adds to the Pain: Killings, Disappearances, and Impunity in the Philippines," HRW presents evidence indicating that the Philippine military was involved in seven murders and three disappearances of leftist activists since President Benigno Aquino III [official website] took office in June 2010. Many of the victims were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines New People's Army (CPP-NPA), a group whose members are typically involved in leftist organizations and oppose military presence in local communities. The killings and abductions allegedly carried out by the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) paramilitary forces often take place with witnesses standing by, the report said. Elaine Pearson, Deputy Asia Director at HRW, condemned the military's behavior and called on the government to hold soldiers accountable:
Activists are being gunned down in the street, while implicated soldiers walk free. The Philippines can only bring an end to these horrific abuses if it is clear that anyone who orders or commits them will be jailed and their military careers will be over. The brazen nature of some of these abuses—in broad daylight and in front of witnesses—shows how members of the military can kill and 'disappear' people with little regard for the consequences. Tagging someone as a leftist activist is like sounding the alarm that they are on a military hit list.
HRW was unable to report on several other alleged military killings because of time constraints.

The Philippines has faced political turmoil in recent years. Aquino signed an executive order [text, PDF] in July 2010 to set up a "truth commission" [JURIST report] to investigate allegations that the outgoing administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] engaged in corruption and rights violations. Arroyo was elected to the lower house of parliament in April 2010 after receiving permission to run for the seat [JURIST report] despite protests that her presidency gave her an unfair advantage. In March of that year, Aquino and other presidential candidates criticized as "unjust" a Supreme Court ruling that allowed Arroyo to appoint a replacement for the retiring chief justice [JURIST report], who planned to step down a week after the May presidential elections. Arroyo declared martial law [JURIST report] in December 2009 for the first time in 23 years in the wake of a massacre in the Maguindanao province that left 57 dead.




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

Reproductive rights group challenges North Dakota abortion law
Maureen Cosgrove on July 19, 2011 11:14 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] on Monday filed a complaint [text] challenging a North Dakota law [HB 1297 text] that effectively bans non-surgical abortions [JURIST news archive] in the state. The law restricts the use of mifepristone, misoprostol [FDA backgrounders] and other drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] to induce first-trimester abortions. The complaint, filed on behalf of the sole abortion provider in the state, alleges that the law would altogether prohibit medication abortions, preventing women who prefer the non-surgical abortion procedure from obtaining treatment. Moreover, the complaint alleges, the law creates an undue, expensive and unconstitutional burden because women would have to travel long distances to obtain abortions. CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup denounced the law [press release], saying it infringes on women's reproductive rights:
North Dakota has enacted a law that defies reason, science, and the expertise of doctors worldwide in an underhanded effort to deny women their legal right to terminate a pregnancy safely, early, and in accordance with their doctors' advice and their own wishes. It is unimaginable that any other medical procedures would be targeted for restrictions aimed at reducing their effectiveness and increasing their expense and inconvenience. This is an assault on women's reproductive rights and health, pure and simple.
The plaintiffs also contend that the law is impermissibly vague, constitutes an improper delegation of legislative authority and violates the privileges and immunities and bodily integrity rights of women, among other challenges. CRR is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the legislation, which is scheduled to take effect on August 1.

North Dakota is one of many states to introduce more restrictive abortion regulations in recent months. In June, the Ohio House of Representatives [official website] voted 54-43 to approve legislation [HB 125] that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable [JURIST report], which could occur as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. The Iowa House of Representatives [official website] also voted in June in favor of a bill [HF-1736 text, PDF] that would effectively ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy [JURIST report], making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. In May, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] upheld an Ohio law [2919.123 text] that limits the use of the "abortion pill" [JURIST report], overturning a 2006 injunction [JURIST report]. Oklahoma has also prohibited the use of mifepristone [JURIST report]. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].




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

Federal judge allows Google to appeal Street View ruling
Maureen Cosgrove on July 19, 2011 10:01 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Monday ruled that Google [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] could appeal a decision permitting a wiretapping lawsuit against the company to proceed. Judge James Ware granted [Bloomberg report] Google's request to delay the lawsuit pending an appeal of a ruling against Google. The lawsuit claims that Google is violating wiretapping laws by collecting data for its Street View [official website] program using WiFi networks. Ware rejected a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] the class-action lawsuit against Google in June, denying [WSJ report] Google's argument that when they collected information while creating their Street View feature, the information was freely and publicly available. Google collected private details transmitted on unencrypted wireless connections, but the company claims it was inadvertent.

Google has recently faced a number of allegations from the international community related to violating privacy laws by capturing personal data through Google Street View. In April, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court (FAC) [official website, in German] publicized its ruling that Google Street View constitutes a breach of privacy [JURIST report] for the country's citizens and ordered Google to take extra steps to ensure adequate protection. In March, a Berlin high court ruled [JURIST report] that Google's Street View mapping service is legal in Germany. The ruling, which cannot be appealed, was narrowly focused on property rights, ignoring larger data protection issues the company is currently confronting. Also in March, the French National Commission of Information Technology and Liberty (CNIL) [official website, in French] fined Google [JURIST report] 100,000 euros (USD $141,300) for violating French data privacy laws by capturing personal data through Google Street View cars, used for its Google Maps service. Google has admitted to the collection of e-mails, passwords and other data over unsecured WiFi networks, but maintained that it was a mistake and that it did not intend to include the code which captured payload data from unsecured WiFi networks. In response to the controversy, Google grounded its Street View cars.




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

Pakistan civilians seek arrest of ex-CIA legal counsel for drone attacks
Maureen Cosgrove on July 19, 2011 9:20 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Three Pakistani men filed a complaint on Monday seeking to arrest former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] legal counsel for authorizing unmanned predator drone strikes [JURIST news archive]. The complaint alleges [Reuters report] that former General Counsel to the CIA John Rizzo approved the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to carry out drone strikes and admitted to doing so in a February Newsweek interview [text]. The aerial attacks target al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and Taliban [CFR backgrounder] militants, but civilians are often killed or injured in the collateral damage. The complaint also seeks an international warrant for Rizzo's arrest.

The Obama administration has defended [JURIST report] its use of targeted killings, specifically those made by unmanned predator drone strikes. 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. UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston [official website] noted in October 2009 that the use of unmanned drones by the US to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan may be illegal [JURIST report]. In January 2006, then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile] contended that the US violated its sovereignty [JURIST report] in an air strike on a village near the Afghanistan border. The failed January 13 attack [Gulf Times report] by a CIA Predator drone was intended for key al Qaeda operatives but killed 18 Pakistani villagers.




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

UN calls for end to fighting in disputed Sudan Kordofan region
Maureen Cosgrove on July 18, 2011 3:32 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UN Officials and the UN Security Council [official website] on Monday called for an end to fighting [press release] in the Southern Kordofan area of Sudan [BBC backgrounder]. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] announced [press release] that the UN has received reports of indiscriminate aerial attacks, abductions, extrajudicial killings and mass graves discovered in the area. He also reported that UN staffers have been abducted, injured and killed during their efforts to investigate the human rights abuses. In a press conference, Simonovic discussed the "disturbing" trends that have been ongoing in Sudan since early June:

UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon [official websites] also voiced concern about the violence in South Sudan, called for a cease-fire and emphasized the UN's need for "unfettered access" to the area. The UN was unable to monitor the conditions in some regions of Sudan recently because the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) [official website], a peacekeeping mission, does not extend to the Republic of South Sudan, which became independent on July 9 [JURIST report]. The UN will publish an official report on its findings within the next 10 to 14 days.

South Kordofan, which has been held by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) since the 2005 peace deal that stifled Sudan's civil war, is a state in the center of Sudan, and has been a disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan due to its oil reserves. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs [official website] and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] denounced continued human rights abuses [statement] against civilians in the South Kordofan region in June, saying that the UN knows of more than 70,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom are subject to violence and targeting due to their ethnic heritage. Sudan's army, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), took over Abyei, a district in the state in May, causing a rebuke and demand for withdrawal [JURIST reports] by the UN. The UN confirmed reports of bombing and shelling in and around Abyei by the SAF, as well as widespread looting and burning of houses. Aid workers estimate 40,000 people have fled the area [BBC report]. While the UN has said that attacks on its peacekeepers amount to war crimes under international law, both the UN and the US have called on the northern troops to withdraw from Abyei. From the northern capital of Khartoum President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; ICC case materials; JURIST news archive] has stated he will not withdraw troops from the region and insisted that the area belongs to the north. An International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] case is open against al-Bashir and several nations have been urged to arrest him on sight including: China, Malaysia, Djibouti, Kenya and Chad [JURIST reports].




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

Ukraine court dismisses ex-PM Tymoshenko's defense attorney
Maureen Cosgrove on July 18, 2011 2:59 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Ukraine court on Monday dismissed Serhiy Vlasenko, a lawyer representing former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive], from judicial proceedings. Vlasenko had been defending Tymoshenko in a criminal case related to United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), an energy company at one time headed by the former prime minister. The Pechersky District Court of Kiev dismissed Vlasenko [Interfax report] saying he was responsible for systematic violation of order in the court, in contempt of court and responsible for obstruction of justice with disregard for the rule of law. Tymoshenko said on her website that the dismissal is an attempt to deprive her of effective counsel [press release] and criticized that the proceedings are being held behind closed doors. Vlasenko said he will appeal the dismissal [Kyiv Post report]. Tymoshenko's ongoing trial includes charges of abuse of office in connection with signing gas import contracts with Russia, misappropriating state funds and abuse of authority [JURIST reports] by purchasing "1000 Opel Combo" medical vans at a 20 percent mark-up during her time as prime minister from 2007-2010. UESU allegedly embezzled USD $405 million from the government.

Earlier this month, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) [official website, in Ukrainian] announced that they are launching a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into UESU. Last month, Tymoshenko filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], alleging violations of the European Convention of Human Rights [text, PDF]. The complaint argued that the charges against Tymoshenko are politically engineered by current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [official website, in Ukrainian], Tymoshenko's political rival. ECHR President Jean Paul Costa refused to comment on the complaint [Korrespondent report, in Russian], but said the matter was before the court. The current combined case against her is not the first time she has been prosecuted. Last May, prosecutors reopened a separate criminal investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that Tymoshenko attempted to bribe Supreme Court judges. Tymoshenko's government was dissolved in March 2010 after she narrowly lost the presidential election to Yanukovych. Tymoshenko had alleged that widespread voter fraud allowed Yanukovych to win the election.




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

HRW urges Bahrain to end attacks on medics, patients linked to protests
Maureen Cosgrove on July 18, 2011 1:36 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday urged [press release] the Bahraini government to end systematic attacks on injured patients and stop arresting medical professionals linked to recent anti-government protests. In a 54-page report [text, PDF] entitled "Targets of Retribution: Attacks against Medics, Injured Protesters, and Health Facilities," HRW presents evidence that Bahraini authorities have attacked health care providers, denied medical access to protesters injured by security forces, seized hospitals and health centers, and detained, mistreated, tortured and prosecuted medical professionals and patients. Documentation of the abuses began on February 17, when protestors and bystanders were attacked by government security forces during what HRW described as largely peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations. The invasion and capture of medical facilities has left injured protestors without necessary medical attention and exacerbated their conditions, HRW reported. Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East Director at HRW, contends that the systematic attacks are unfounded and constitute efforts to exact revenge on protestors:
The attacks on medics and wounded protesters have been part of an official policy of retribution against Bahrainis who supported pro-democracy protests. Medical personnel who criticized the severe repression were singled out and jailed, among the more than 1,600 Bahrainis facing solitary confinement and ill-treatment in detention and unfair trials before a special military court. Officials justify the government's crackdown and the arrests of the medics by alleging that they violated the principle of medical neutrality and committed heinous crimes. Yet they have failed to provide any convincing evidence that their actions are anything but a campaign of retribution aimed at silencing government critics.
The Bahraini government alleges that actions by protesters and medical staff compelled security and military forces to intervene. According to the report, over 30 people have died during the protest aftermath.

A Bahrain court arraigned 47 doctors and nurses [JURIST report] in June on charges of trying to overthrow the government and participating in illegal demonstrations when they helped treat injured protesters at the Salmaniya Medical Complex [official website], a state-run center in Bahrain's capital, Manama. Human rights organizations including HRW and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy websites], in April, criticized [JURIST report] Bahrain for rampant human rights abuses related to anti-government protests. In March, six opposition leaders were arrested [JURIST report] in Bahrain after the government, backed by foreign troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) [official website], violently dispersed protesters in Manana. Days earlier, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] declared a three-month state of emergency [JURIST report] in response to growing unrest in the island nation. The state of emergency came just days after a group of 22 Bahraini lawmakers, part of an independent pro-government bloc, called on the King to impose martial law [JURIST report] under articles 36 and 123 of the Bahraini Constitution [text, PDF]. Also in March, the member states of the GCC, which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, deployed troops to Bahrain [BBC report] for the purpose of guarding oil installations and financial institutions. The Bahraini government's response to the ongoing protests have prompted international concern. In February, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called for an end to violence against protesters [JURIST report] in the country, referencing attempts to quell protests sweeping across the region.




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

Former newspaper CEO arrested in phone hacking scandal
Maureen Cosgrove on July 18, 2011 11:55 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International (NI) and former editor of the newspaper News of the World [media websites], was arrested Sunday by UK police on charges related to a wide-spread phone hacking scandal. Police arrested Brooks [BBC report] on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and on suspicion of corruption. She was questioned and released on bail hours later. NI is a subsidiary of News Corporation (News Corp.) [media website], a conglomerate owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch [Forbes profile]. Brooks, 43, was editor of News of the World, also a News Corp. subsidiary, from 2000 to 2003 when the phone of murdered teen Amanda Dowler was hacked. Brooks, along with a number of high-ranking executives and journalists, have been arrested in relation to phone hacking allegations, some involving the tampering with phones of victims of the 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] terrorist attacks. Brooks resigned [statement] from her post at NI on Friday as accusations mounted, and is the tenth person to be arrested in connection with the hacking scandal.

US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced last week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] will open an inquiry [JURIST report] into whether journalists working for News Corp. and its subsidiaries violated US laws by hacking into the mobile phones of 9/11 victims. British Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced last week that the UK would also initiate an inquiry [Conservatives report] into the alleged wrongdoing of the press and police in connection with the 9/11 phone hacking scandal, as well as a full-scale review of press regulations. Members of the US Senate and House of Representatives [official websites] called on US agencies to open the News Corp. investigation [JURIST report]. The requests come in response to an article [text] published in the British tabloid, The Daily Mirror [official website], claiming that journalists working for the company offered to pay a New York City police officer in exchange for victims' phone information and call details. Recent reports allege that journalists for the now-defunct News of the World paid London police officers for private information, including telephone records, to use in various news stories. The company could face additional charges under the accounting provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) [background materials, PDF] for not properly recording any illicit transactions in their books.




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

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit over constitutional right to sell cigarettes
Zach Zagger on July 18, 2011 10:37 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Friday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit over the constitutional right to sell cigarettes. The lawsuit was brought by Safeway, Inc. [corporate website], a chain of grocery stores, challenging a San Francisco city ordinance banning the sale of cigarettes by pharmacies. The original ordinance had included an exception for "big-box stores" that contain pharmacies, but it was amended due to a lawsuit brought by Walgreens arguing that such an exception violated the Equal Protection Clause (EPC) [Cornell LII backgrounder]. The ordinance cites health risks associated with smoking cigarettes and states, "through the sale of tobacco products, pharmacies convey tacit approval of the purchase and use of tobacco products, which sends a mixed message to consumers who generally patronize pharmacies for health care services." Safeway argued that the ordinance did not apply to its stores because the pharmacies are separate and isolated from the counters selling cigarettes, and the pharmacy personnel are not asked to sell cigarettes. Safeway further argued that the city's revocation of licenses to sell cigarettes granted under the exception in the original ordinance violated due process. Judge Claudia Wilken, however, said that the ordinance was a valid use of the police power and did not violate the EPC:
The purpose of the amended ordinance, to promote the public health by preventing people from becoming addicted to tobacco and by helping those already addicted to stop smoking, is legitimate and even compelling. In prohibiting the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, the amended ordinance accomplishes its purpose by ending any inference that tobacco products may not be harmful because they are sold by a major participant in the health care delivery system.
Furthermore, the court held that the ordinance was not preempted by state law regulating pharmacists. The court dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice and without leave to amend. San Francisco City Attorney David Herrera [official profile] said [press release], "those who operate pharmacies have chosen to participate in our healthcare delivery system, and that should not include the delivery of cigarettes. I am grateful that Judge Wilken rejected the argument that Safeway — whose slogan is 'Ingredients for Life' — has a constitutional right to sell addictive tobacco products." The California Medical Association [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief in favor of San Francisco.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products have been subject to strict marketing regulations on both the federal and state levels. Earlier this year, two tobacco companies filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] to enjoin a recent opinion by the agency's advisory committee due to conflicts of interest. Last year, the FDA announced a final rule [text] restricting tobacco sales and promotions [JURIST report] directed at youth. The Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents are a set of broad regulations "designed to significantly curb access to and the appeal of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and adolescents in the United States." In 2009, US President Barack Obama [official website] signed into law [JURIST report] the Family Smoking and Tobacco Prevention Act [HR 1256 text], which grants the FDA certain authority to regulate tobacco products. The legislation heightens warning-label requirements, prohibits marketing "light cigarettes" as a healthier alternative and allows for the regulation of cigarette ingredients. The bill gives the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products but does not permit the agency to regulate tobacco leaf that is not in the hands of tobacco product manufacturers or producers of tobacco leaf, including tobacco growers, tobacco warehouses and tobacco grower cooperatives.




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

ICJ orders Thailand, Cambodia to withdraw troops from border temple
Maureen Cosgrove on July 18, 2011 10:07 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Monday ordered [press release, PDF] that both Thailand and Cambodia immediately withdraw military personnel from a disputed area along the border between the two countries. The Temple of Preah Vihear [UNESCO profile] is a demilitarized region between Cambodia and Thailand, and has been the sight of armed clashes [AP report] between military forces from both countries since 2008. The court voted 11-5 to instruct both countries to withdraw troops, as well as permit officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] to monitor the cease-fire, which was called for [JURIST report] by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website; JURIST news archive] in April. Thailand is also not permitted to refuse access to Cambodia with respect to non-military use of the area.



View Larger Map

The Cambodian government asked [press release] the ICJ in May to order Thai troops to withdraw from the disputed border area. The ICJ ruling stems from a request from Cambodia seeking clarification [JURIST report] from the court of a 1962 decision [judgment, PDF] awarding the temple to the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh. Cambodia argued that the troops in the surrounding area of the temple are a threat to the security and peace of the region, while Thailand contended that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction to decide border disputes between countries. Parts of the Cambodia-Thailand border have never been formally demarcated, which has led to border disputes [BBC report]. In response to the latest border clash, Ban stressed that the dispute could not be resolved through military force [JURIST report] and urged both sides to continue working towards a ceasefire.




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

Italy PM Berlusconi loses motion to move trial to a special court
Zach Zagger on July 18, 2011 9:50 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Milan criminal court on Monday denied a motion filed by Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official website, in Italian; JURIST news archive] to move his prostitution trial to the Tribunal of Ministers [official website], a special court set up to prosecute public officials. The Tribunal of Ministers would require parliamentary authorization before hearing the case against Berlusconi. Berlusconi is on trial for allegedly paying for sex with a minor, then 17-year-old dancer, Karima El Mahroug, known as Ruby, and later calling police to secure her release while she was detained on an unrelated suspicion of theft. Also on Monday, a hearing [CNN report] was held in a separate corruption case [JURIST report] against Berlusconi for allegedly paying his former lawyer David Mills [JURIST news archive] in order to secure false testimony in his favor during two trials in 1997 and 1998 involving Berlusconi's broadcasting company, Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian]. The judge denied several other motions [AP report] brought by Berlusconi's lawyers. He did not attend the hearing, and his case was continued until October 3.

Berlusconi has been a defendant in nearly 50 cases, including two other ongoing proceedings involving tax fraud and embezzlement [JURIST reports]. Earlier this month, an Italian appeals court ordered Fininvest [corporate website], a holding company owned by Berlusconi, to pay 560 million euros (USD 801 million) in damages and fees to Compagnie Industriali Riunite (CIR) Group [corporate website]. The complaint stemmed from Fininvest's 1991 acquisition of Italian publishing company Mondadori [corporate website], during which Fininvest bribed a judge in exchange for favorable decisions. Neither Berlusconi nor Ruby attended [JURIST report] the beginning of the prostitution trial in April, and the court adjourned after only 10 minutes. Both parties deny having a sexual relationship, and Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing, calling the accusations groundless.




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

Hungary court drops war crimes charges against accused Nazi
Maureen Cosgrove on July 18, 2011 9:24 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Hungarian court on Monday dropped war crimes charges against accused Nazi Sandor Kepiro, who was alleged to have participated in the 1942 Novi Sad massacre in Serbia. Thirty-five people were killed by Hungarian forces under Kepiro's control during the World War II raid. Kepiro, whose trial began in May [JURIST report], persistently denied involvement and rejected the charges [AP report]. The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) [advocacy website], a Jewish human rights organization committed to finding and prosecuting Holocaust war criminals, named Kepiro, 97, as the world's most wanted Nazi war crimes suspect. Kepiro was convicted both in 1944 and 1946 and sentenced to 10 years for involvement in the raids, but he was released and fled to Argentina. He was located and apprehended by the SWC in 2006 and charged [JURIST report] in February.

Kepiro's prosecution was likely one of the last of an accused Nazi. In May, the trial of accused Nazi guard John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile, JURIST news archive] ended when he was convicted [JURIST report] but released because of his advanced age. An appeal [JURIST report] of his release is pending. In November, Nazi guard Samuel Kunz [Trial Watch profile], 89, passed away [JURIST report] in his home before he could be brought to trial. He was accused of aiding in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people at the Belzec concentration camp [HRP backgrounder].




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

Clinton criticizes Turkish rights record
Julia Zebley on July 17, 2011 2:55 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [official website] on Saturday criticized Turkey's neglect of some human rights issues [CNN Turk report, in Turkish], including a lack of religious freedom, the censoring of the internet and improper detention of journalists. Clinton noted the rising economic importance of Turkey as well calling it one of the most exciting places in the world [CNN report] due to its ties with both Eastern and Western cultures, but expressed great concern over the recent jailing of approximately 50 journalists during the "Sledgehammer" coup [JURIST news archive] last year. Citing continued discrimination of Kurds, Clinton asked that Turkey expand religious freedoms. Further, she denounced a proposal set to go into effect in August that would allow Turkish authorities to monitor citizen's usage of the Internet. All of the comments were made during an interview with CNN Turkey during Clinton's recent diplomatic visit to Turkey, Greece and India.

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Clinton said she believed these backslides in human rights is "inconsistent" with Turkey's growing emergence in the international community. She also praised Turkey's improving record on LGBT rights, in their effort to gain accession to the European Union (EU) [EU country profile], and congratulated them on their recent successful election.

Last month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish] pledged to work with opposition leaders to build the country's new constitution [JURIST report]. Some groups have chastised Erdogan for failing to carry out his promises to ease tension between the Kurdish minority and the government, reform the judiciary and reduce unemployment. He has, however, been praised for his governance of the Turkish economy, which has experienced growth in recent years. Constitutional reforms are an issue for Turkey's accession to the European Union (EU) [official website] since its constitution was written under military rule and limits freedom of expression and religion. A council for the EU in May 2009 said that Turkey should do more [press release, PDF; JURIST report] in terms of judicial reform, protection of citizens' rights and various other efforts in order to further their request to be granted accession to the EU [criteria materials]. In 2009 and 2010 [JURIST reports], the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled against Turkey in journalism-related rights violations.




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

USITC rules HTC infringed two Apple patents; HTC will appeal
Julia Zebley on July 17, 2011 2:00 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Apple [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] prevailed in a complaint [JURIST report] against HTC [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] on Saturday when the US International Trade Commission (USITC) [official website] ruled against HTC for patent infringement on patents 5,946,647 and 6,343,263 [texts], both of which relate to cell phones that run the Android operating system (OS). HTC will appeal [Bloomberg report] the ruling. If the ruling stands, the United States will likely block several HTC phones that carry Android, which is Google's [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] representative in the smartphone market and the most popular smartphone OS in the US. Regardless of whether the appeal goes in favor of HTC, general counsel Grace Lei said they have alternate tools and methods [Bloomberg report] to circumvent the patent infringement. Some have theorized this will involve paying a licensing fee [Taipei report] or settling with Apple, thus raising the prices of Android-based phones.

This is the second suit that Apple has brought against HTC. Last year, Apple filed suits [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Delaware and with the USITC alleging patent infringements. HTC later also filed a suit [JURIST report] against Apple for infringement related to portable electronic devices. Apple's claim comes days after it filed a complaint against Samsung [JURIST report] in an effort to bar importation of Samsung's smartphones and tablets. Apple claimed Samsung's "Galaxy" line copies its iPhone and iPad technology. That complaint came just a week after Samsung filed a similar complaint [JURIST report] seeking to prevent Apple from importing iPads and iPhones. Samsung claimed that Apple violated five patents also related to smartphones and tablets. In addition, Samsung filed a patent infringement suit [Bloomberg report] against Apple in the High Court in London two weeks ago.




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

Federal judge issues injunction against Washington state recall contribution limits
Daniel Makosky on July 17, 2011 12:20 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A federal judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Washington [official website] on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction [order, PDF] suspending the imposition of contribution limits in Washington state recall campaigns. Judge Robert Bryan ruled that, given the diminished potential for quid pro quo arrangements typically feared in electoral campaigns, the state failed to demonstrate sufficient grounds on which to extend to recall efforts its otherwise legitimate interest in preventing corruption or the appearance thereof. As such, Bryan found that the state's law capping contributions to recall campaigns at $800 [RCW § 42.17.640(3) text] inappropriately curbs individuals' First Amendment rights to campaign speech. The case stems from an effort to recall Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam [official website], which will proceed without being subject to the contribution limit until a full hearing on its constitutionality [AP report] can be held.

In March 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] unanimously ruled [JURIST report] that limiting contributions from individuals to independent political advocacy organizations is unconstitutional. The court relied on the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [opinion, PDF], which eased restrictions [JURIST report] on political and campaign spending by corporations on First Amendment grounds. Citizens United overturned Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) [text, PDF], which prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.




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

Federal judge dismisses BP oil spill fraud lawsuit
Maureen Cosgrove on July 17, 2011 11:12 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on Friday dismissed [order, PDF] consolidated racketeering claims against British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Gulf residents and businesses filed lawsuits in June 2010 [JURIST report] alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) [18 USC § 1961 et seq.] statute, claiming that BP purposefully defrauded the American public in order to increase company profits. The first lawsuit, a class action filed on behalf of US residents affected by the oil spill, contends that BP engaged in a scheme to secure profits by deceiving the public. The second suit alleges that BP has been involved in racketeering and corruption related to the BP claims payment process. According to the complaint, BP has been involved in corruption, wire fraud, mail fraud, unauthorized practice of law, violation of state insurances laws and regulations and other criminal activity in order to delay or reduce the payment of legitimate claims for damages. The court granted BP's motion to dismiss the RICO claims on the grounds that the causal connection between BP's alleged fraud and the plaintiffs' injuries was too attenuated to constitute a RICO violation. The same court on Friday also granted [order, PDF] BP's motion to stay a claim filed by Andarko, a BP partner, because its contract with BP required arbitration for such legal disputes rather than litigation.

Calls for criminal and civil actions have been mounting against BP, as evidence of the oil giant's lack of proper compliance with regulations has come out. In February, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [official website] asked the district court to order the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) [official website] to fulfill its legal obligations to aid victims of the spill and to remedy inadequate claims mechanisms [JURIST report]. The GCCF began processing claims in August following the completion of negotiations [JURIST reports] between BP and the US Department of Justice [official website]. Former Alabama Attorney General Troy King filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in August against BP for damages to the state's coast and economy, claiming that the oil giant has failed in its efforts to accept responsibility for the oil spill. In July, a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] was filed against the company in a Louisiana state court alleging that its negligent actions led to the spill and that BP was further negligent in its oversight of the cleanup effort, resulting in volunteers falling ill due to inadequate protective equipment. In June 2010, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] is reviewing whether any criminal or civil laws were violated [JURIST report] by BP resulting in the oil spill. Holder cited several statutes being examined by government lawyers including the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 [materials]. In May 2010, DC-based consumer advocacy organization Food and Water Watch (FWW) [advocacy website] filed suit [JURIST report] in a US district court against the US Department of Interior (DOI) and the Minerals Management Service (MMS) [official websites] for an injunction to halt drilling at the BP Atlantis Facility [corporate website], another BP Gulf of Mexico site.




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

Rights groups urge UAE to end trial of pro-democracy activists
Maureen Cosgrove on July 17, 2011 10:24 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), the Arabic Network For Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and Front Line Defenders (FLD) [advocacy websites] on Saturday urged [press release] United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities to end the trial of five pro-democracy activists charged with publicly insulting UAE leaders. The five men, who have been detained since April, were charged in June under § 176 of the UAE Penal Code [text] for publicly insulting UAE president Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed and other government officials. Two of the five men are alleged to have used or incited violence on UAE Hewar [official website, in Arabic], an online political forum. Blogger Ahmed Mansoor, one of the five, was also charged with inciting others to break the law, demonstrating and calling for an election boycott. The rights groups contend that the UAE government has failed to provide sufficient evidence to convict the activists. HRW Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson expressed disapproval for how the UAE and international community have handled the prosecution:
In this day and age, with all that is going on in the region, it is disturbing and absurd that the UAE is prosecuting activists simply because they spoke out for democracy. The international community should end its silence and condemn this mockery of justice; the government had no business arresting these men in the first place.
The trial is scheduled to reconvene on Monday before Abu Dhabi's Supreme Court. If convicted, the activists face up to five years in prison.

Rights groups have criticized the UAE recently for its conduct in the wake of calls for political reform. HRW urged [press release; JURIST report] the government of the UAE in April to reverse its decision to dissolve the board of directors of the Jurist Association, a prominent civil rights group. HRW was critical of the UAE government [press release] when it arrested Mansoor in April for calling for democratic reform. HRW also urged international public institutions [HRW press release] that have a presence in the country, such as the Guggenheim, New York University (NYU), and the Agence France Museum [official websites], to publicly condemn the UAE government's detention of rights activists. HRW has continued to monitor the UAE's compliance with international human rights standards following a 2010 report [HRW report] suggesting the human rights climate in the UAE has worsened. HRW has been particularly concerned about torture, the deterioration of conditions for migrant workers, restrictions on freedoms of expression and association, and violations of women's rights. In October 2010, HRW condemned [press release; JURIST report] a ruling by the UAE Federal Supreme Court affirming a "husband['s] right to discipline his wife" as a violation of UAE treaty obligations.




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

Ninth Circuit partially reinstates 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'
LaToya Sawyer on July 16, 2011 12:04 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Friday ordered [text, PDF] the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] to remain partially in place in order for the court to fully consider the issues concerning the policy's complete repeal. The order follows a motion made by the Obama administration on Thursday asking the court to reinstate DADT [JURIST report], which bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The government filed an emergency motion arguing that the Ninth Circuit panel's decision to order a halt to the policy [JURIST report] was misguided and would hinder the repeal process underway. In the ruling, the court agreed that the new revisions might hinder the repeal process:
In the motion for reconsideration, appellants provide considerably more detailed information concerning the implementation of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 than they did in their May 20, 2011, opposition to the motion to lift the stay. ... Appellants acknowledge that they did not previously inform the court of the full extent of the implementation of the Repeal Act. In order to provide this court with an opportunity to consider fully the issues presented in light of these previously undisclosed facts, the stay ... is reinstated temporarily.
Although the DADT policy will be reinstated, the court made explicit demands that the military may not investigate, penalize or discharge anyone from the military as the original 1993 provisions of the policy allowed. Appellants have until July 18 to explain why they did not include the same detailed information in their first motion as they did in their reconsideration motion to lift the stay.

In November, the court issued the original stay [JURIST report] suspending enforcement of the injunction against DADT. The government had requested that the litigation be placed on hold in light of the passage of an act to repeal the policy [JURIST report], arguing that moving forward with the appeal would interfere with the repeal schedule. After hearing seven months of arguments and briefs, the Ninth Circuit rejected that appeal and lifted the stay. Congress recently tried to delay the repeal of DADT when it passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 [HR 1540 materials], which contains a provision requiring the chiefs of the branches of the military to submit written certification that the DADT repeal will not be harmful. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.




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

Russia president signs law regulating abortions
LaToya Sawyer on July 16, 2011 9:32 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] signed a law on Thursday that will place restrictions on abortion [JURIST news archive] by requiring that clinics warn women of the health hazards associated with the practice. Abortions in Russia are free at any licensed medical clinic, and the only restrictions on the practice since the end of the Soviet Union ended have applied to late term pregnancies, which are restricted to those performed for the sake of the mother's health or fetal abnormalities. Under the new law, clinics must allocate at least ten percent [NYT report], of their advertising to health warnings. Also, it is now illegal to promote abortion as a safe procedure. The goal of the law is to protect women's health, decrease the number of deaths that occur with the practice, and to mitigate the drop in population that Russia has experienced, as the UN has found Russia to have the highest abortion rate in the world [AP report]. Russia has faced recent political divide over the practice as the Russian Orthodox Church [official website] has made efforts to restrict abortion [press release]. The parliament is expected to take up more legislation dealing with abortion in the fall.

Abortion still remains a hotly debated issue in Europe. In May, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled that a Polish woman who had been denied genetic testing and an abortion was subjected to "inhuman treatment" [JURIST report] violating the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. Last year, the court ruled that Ireland failed to provide [JURIST report] "effective and accessible procedures" to allow Lithuanian women to assert constitutional rights to a lawful abortion. The ruling followed after several women filed suits asserting a violation of their rights to have to travel abroad for abortions. In March 2010, thousands protested in Spain against a bill that would allow abortions [JURIST report] up until 14 weeks of pregnancy.




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

Federal appeals court rejects challenge to TSA body scans
Maureen Cosgrove on July 15, 2011 3:10 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday unanimously rejected [opinion, PDF] a constitutional challenge to the full-body scans conducted at airports by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website]. The appeals court held that the use of full body scanners [TSA backgrounder], also known as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), does not violate the Fourth Amendment [text] protection against unreasonable searches, nor does it violate any federal statutes. However, the court said that the TSA violated procedural requirements by failing to give notice to the public as well as provide an opportunity to file comments with the agency pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) [materials]. Though the petitioners, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [official website], were disappointed [WSJ report] that the court dismissed the constitutional challenge, President of EPIC Marc Rotenberg applauded the ruling [press release]:
We are pleased with the court's decision. The TSA is now subject to the same rules as other government agencies that help ensure transparency and accountability. Many Americans object to the airport body scanner program. Now they will have an opportunity to express their views to the TSA and the agency must take their views into account as a matter of law.
The court ultimately remanded the case to the agency for further proceedings to "cure the defect."

The TSA has come under fire recently for implementing invasive airport security measures. In June, the Texas legislature approved a pair of bills [JURIST report] that criminalize enhanced airport security pat-downs if they involve touching a passenger's "private" areas. The TSA, however, announced a policy change [USA Today report] earlier that month that seeks to reduce the number of invasive pat-downs of children under age 12. Texas Governor Rick Perry commended the TSA [press release] for making the change, indicating that "Texas will continue seeking more common-sense approaches to TSA security measures." In April 2010, a group of more than 30 privacy and civil liberty groups asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] to suspend the full body scanner program [JURIST report]. The body scanners were introduced in part as a response to the failed US bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [Telegraph profile; JURIST news archive] on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. The attempted attack prompted Obama to announce tighter security measures, which civil rights groups opposed [JURIST reports] as a pretext to racial profiling.




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

FBI to probe News Corp in 9/11 phone hacking scandal
Maureen Cosgrove on July 15, 2011 2:03 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] on Friday announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] will open an inquiry into whether journalists working for the media company News Corporation (News Corp.) [media website] and its subsidiaries violated US laws by hacking into the mobile phones of 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] victims. The FBI said that it had begun to examine the allegations [Al Jazeera report] against News Corp., an organization owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch [Forbes profile]. British Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced earlier this week that the UK would also initiate an inquiry [Conservatives report] into the alleged wrongdoing of the press and police in connection with the 9/11 phone hacking scandal, as well as a full-scale review of press regulations.

Members of the US Senate and House of Representatives [official websites] called on US agencies Wednesday to open the News Corp. investigation [JURIST report]. The requests come in response to an article [text] published in the British tabloid, The Daily Mirror [official website], claiming that journalists working for the company offered to pay a New York City police officer in exchange for victims' phone information and call details. Recent reports allege that journalists for the now-defunct British tabloid, News of the World [media website], a News Corp. subsidiary, paid London police officers for private information, including telephone records, to use in various news stories. The company could face additional charges under the accounting provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) [background materials, PDF] for not properly recording any illicit transactions in their books.




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

Violent crime rate along US-Mexico border declining: USA Today
Maureen Cosgrove on July 15, 2011 11:56 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Rates of violent crime along the US-Mexico border [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] have been declining for several years, according to a USA Today analysis [text; interactive materials] released Thursday. The study indicated that, on average, US border cities were safer than other cities in the same states, with border cities maintaining lower crimes rates than the national average. Federal crime statistics, interviews and crime data from over 1,600 local law enforcement agencies in four border states, as well as demographic figures from the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey [official website], form the basis of the study. The analysis suggests that the US-Mexico border may not be as dangerous as the general US population perceives. For example, according to the study, murder and robbery rates for cities within 50 miles of the border were lower than the respective state average in nearly every year from 1998 to 2009. Critics of the study are concerned that the analysis does not accurately reflect the true landscape of violent crime in border cities and fails to take into consideration those crimes that go unreported, particularly kidnapping and extortion. Several analysts quoted in the report, however, argue that the analysis confirms that politicians have exaggerated the extent to which violence occurs along the US-Mexico border and make unsubstantiated claims linking illegal immigration to crime rates.

The US has adopted numerous approaches to curb illegal immigration and crime along the US-Mexico border. US President Barack Obama signed legislation [JURIST report] designed to increase security along the US-Mexico border in August 2010 after announcing in May 2010 that he would send 1,200 National Guard [official website] troops to the US-Mexican border in an effort to deter drug smuggling and illegal immigration [JURIST report]. The US government abandoned a prototype "virtual fence" [JURIST report], part of the Secure Border Initiative [DHS fact sheet], along the US-Mexico border after the system, passed in September 2006 [JURIST report], failed to perform up to expectations. In 2006, former US president George W. Bush [official profile] announced [JURIST report] the deployment of up to 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border as part of a wide-ranging plan to 'fix' problems created by illegal immigration. The US Border Patrol [official website] subsequently announced [JURIST report] that the number of illegal Mexican migrants attempting to cross the US-Mexico border in Arizona had dropped significantly due to deployment of those troops who worked to extend border fences and repair roads in the area.




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

Switzerland high court upholds UBS disclosure of client information
Jaclyn Belczyk on July 15, 2011 11:46 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland [official website, in German] ruled [press release, PDF] Friday that the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) [official website, in German] was right to order UBS [corporate website] to disclose information to the US on more than 250 of the bank's clients. FINMA issued the order in February 2009 after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) accused UBS of assisting Americans in hiding accounts from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official websites]. The Supreme Court found that FINMA acted lawfully, overturning a January 2010 lower court ruling that had found FINMA in violation of the law [JURIST report]. FINMA welcomed Friday's ruling and said they would carefully review [press release, in German] the court's judgment. The judgment will be available on the court's website once it has been redacted.

The ruling comes as the US seeks to put an end to tax-evasion through the use of overseas accounts. Last July, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court [official website, in German] ruled that an agreement [text, PDF] with the US, allowing UBS to disclose client account information, is binding [JURIST report]. In November 2009, the DOJ and IRS announced that more than 14,700 Americans had reported to the IRS [JURIST report] previously hidden overseas bank accounts in response to a temporary forgiveness program [official website] allowing delinquent taxpayers to avoid criminal prosecution for tax evasion by paying all overdue taxes and penalties. In September of that year, the US and Switzerland signed a treaty [JURIST report] that would increase the amount of information shared between the two nations on would-be tax evaders. The agreement, constructed in accordance with Article 26 of the Model Tax Convention [text, PDF], came one month after a Swiss banker and lawyer were indicted in US federal court [JURIST report] for helping clients hide assets. Earlier in 2009, the US reached a preliminary agreement with Switzerland over the identification of anonymous accounts [JURIST report] in Swiss banks, which would aid US officials in identifying those who seek to evade taxes.




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

Missouri governor will not sign legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks
Maureen Cosgrove on July 15, 2011 11:01 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Missouri Governor Jay Nixon [official website] on Thursday said he will not sign legislation [press release] that would ban abortions [JURIST news archive] after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The measure [HB 213 materials] imposes penalties on doctors who fail to comply with the new restrictions. It would provide some exceptions, permitting abortions of viable fetuses only when the woman's life is endangered by a physical illness or disability, or when continued pregnancy poses the risk of substantial physical impairment to the pregnant woman. The legislation further requires a concurring opinion from a second physician before the abortion of a viable fetus can be performed. Doctors who abort viable fetuses in violation of the late-term abortion law could face up to seven years in prison and fines between $10,000 and $50,000. Nixon acknowledged the lawmakers' decision while pointing out alternatives to abortion legislation:
This legislation was approved by an overwhelming, bi-partisan majority in both houses. Although people have differing views on this issue, it's important that we work together to provide accurate health information, promote personal responsibility, protect women's health, and improve foster care, adoption and child protection services.
Despite the governor's not signing the bill, the law will take effect pursuant to Article III, § 31 of the Missouri Constitution [text].

The Missouri House of Representatives [official website] gave final approval to the legislation in May, and the Senate approved the measure in April after receiving preliminary approval [JURIST reports] from the House in March. Missouri is just the latest of several states to impose restrictions abortions after the 20-week mark, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain. Indiana, Alabama, Ohio and Oklahoma [JURIST reports] have each passed legislation this year which restricts the abortion procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Iowa, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports] have also recently passed legislation restricting late-term abortions.




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

Obama administration asks appeals court to reinstate 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'
Maureen Cosgrove on July 15, 2011 9:51 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Obama administration on Thursday asked [plea text, PDF] the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] to reinstate the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) [10 USC § 654 text; JURIST news archive] policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The government filed the "emergency motion," arguing that a Ninth Circuit panel's decision to lift a stay [JURIST report] blocking a lower court injunction against DADT and allowing for an immediate end to enforcement of the controversial policy was misguided. The motion asserts that Congress has already established a plan to repeal DADT, though it currently remains in effect. The appeals court on Monday ordered [JURIST report] the Obama administration to say whether it plans to defend DADT, suggesting that it appeared from the merit briefs in Log Cabin Republicans v. USA [case materials] that the government was not prepared to defend the law's constitutionality because it has asserted only that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 [text and materials] is constitutional. Included in the government's filings was a letter [text, PDF] from US attorney Henry Whitaker responding to questions presented in the appeal court's July 11 order, namely, whether the Obama administration intended to defend DADT's constitutionality. Whitaker explained that the administration "has fully defended, and continues to defend, the constitutionality" of DADT "as it exists following the enactment of" the Repeal Act:
[B]efore enactment of the Repeal Act, the question this case presented ... was whether 10 U.S.C. § 654 was constitutional as originally enacted. But that is no longer the question in this case, in which the plaintiff seeks only prospective relief. The government has not addressed the question the district court decided because the statute the district court considered has been changed, fundamentally altering the legal lens through which a Court must evaluate the constitutionality of the statute. Rather, the government has addressed the only question as to which there is any live controversy remaining: whether the statute as it presently exists is constitutional.
The government also filed a declaration [text, PDF] from top Pentagon official Major General Steven Hummer, arguing that the military, not the courts, should carry out the law's repeal pursuant to the DADT Repeal Act.

In November, the government requested and received the stay [JURIST report] that suspended enforcement of the injunction. The government had requested that the appeal be placed on hold in light of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act, arguing that moving forward with the appeal would interfere with the repeal schedule that the Act sets in place. After hearing seven months of arguments and briefs, the Ninth Circuit rejected that appeal and lifted the stay. That decision came after the Ninth Circuit's denial [JURIST report] of a motion [text, PDF] by the US government that the court suspend the government's appeal of an injunction [JURIST report] issued by the US District Court of the Central District of California [official website] requiring the US military to end enforcement of DADT. Congress recently tried to delay the repeal of DADT when it passed the $690 billion National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 [HR 1540 materials], which contains a provision [§ 533] requiring the chiefs of the branches of the military to submit written certification that DADT's repeal will not be harmful. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act was approved in the Senate in December after being passed [JURIST reports] by the House of Representatives the week before. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.




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

Former Argentina military officers sentenced to life for crimes against humanity
Maureen Cosgrove on July 15, 2011 8:54 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Two former military officers were convicted and sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for committing crimes against humanity at an Argentine prison. The officers, along with five others, were charged and convicted of various crimes [La Nacion report, in Spanish] including murder, kidnapping and torture that took place at El Vesubio [Nunca Mas backgrounder, in Spanish], a notorious prison operated by the country's former dictatorship. Argentina's military junta controlled the prison from 1976-83 throughout the dictatorship's "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive], during which over 13,000 people were killed. The seven men were charged in February with a total of 156 crimes against humanity. Col. Pedro Alberto Duran, the prison's supervisor who died during the trial, also allegedly raped female prisoners regularly and was charged with 14 counts of homicide, among other accusations. Gen. Hector Gamen and Col. Hugo Pascarelli were given life sentences, while the others were sentenced to 18-22 years in prison.

A number of investigations have been initiated and cases brought to trial as a result of a 2005 Argentina Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruling that denied amnesty to military figures [HRW report] who committed crimes during the military dictatorship. An Argentine federal court in April sentenced [JURIST report] former general Eduardo Cabanillas to life in prison for his involvement in the Dirty War. Former general Luciano Benjamin Menendez, already serving a life sentence, was sentenced to an additional life sentence [JURIST report] in March for the attack and murder of five urban guerrilla group members. Also in March, an Argentine court commenced the trial of former dictators Jorge Videla [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] and Reynaldo Bignone [JURIST news archive] for allegedly overseeing a systematic plan to steal babies [JURIST report] born to political prisoners. In December, Videla was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity. Videla's trial commenced in July after he was charged with an additional 49 counts [JURIST reports] of murder, kidnapping and torture last May following the identification of 40 bodies in Buenos Aires in 2009. Also last May, Argentine authorities arrested [JURIST report] former secret service agent Miguel Angel Furci on charges of human rights abuses. Furci, a former agent of the Secretariat of State Intelligence (SIDE), was charged with 70 kidnappings and the torture of detainees at Orletti.




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

Imprisoned Iran journalist urges UN probe of prison conditions
Maureen Cosgrove on July 14, 2011 2:31 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Jailed Iranian journalist Isa Saharkhiz [Iran Press profile] on Wednesday urged [letter, DOC, in Persian] UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Dr. Ahmad Shaheed to investigate prison conditions in Iran. Saharkhiz alleged that the treatment of both political and general prisoners in Iran amounts to crimes against humanity [RFE/RL report], and compared the conduct of prison authorities to that of Joseph Stalin in Soviet-era concentration camps. Saharkhiz believes that prison authorities are systematically mistreating prisoners, particularly political activists, with the goal of silencing and ultimately killing them. He further indicated that prison authorities would not allow him to seek medical treatment for his illness. Saharkhiz, a well-known press activist and former managing editor of the monthly Aftab, was sentenced [JURIST report] in July 2006 by an Iranian court to four years in prison for publishing articles against the constitution and offending the state media. He was later arrested in 2009 for insulting Iran's government and spreading propaganda following the controversial June 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. He is serving three years for that arrest, followed by a five-year ban on political and journalistic activities, and a one-year order to remain in Iran following release.

Iran's prison system has been heavily criticized in recent years. The Iranian government executed two men in February convicted of killing [JURIST reports] three anti-government protesters in prison in 2009, according to a report by pro-government website Khabarnameh Daneshjooyan. The men were charged with torturing and eventually killing Mohammad Kamrani, Amir Javadi-far and Mohsen Ruholamini while they were detained at Kahrizak jail south of Iran. Observers had accused the Iranian government of conducting the highly controversial trial [JURIST report] as a mere political move. The Iranian government was also sharply criticized by both pro-democracy leaders and government supporters for the death of the protesters, who were incarcerated after the June 2009 disputed presidential election. Authorities initially claimed that the three detainees had died from meningitis, holding that the torture accusations were propaganda of the opposition party. This viewpoint began to shift in August when government officials spoke out [JURIST report] against the abuse of protesters detained in Iranian prisons and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official website] ordered the closure of Kahrizak prison as a result. In January, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran [official website] claimed that Iran is on an "execution binge" [JURIST report], killing one prisoner every eight hours. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran [advocacy websites] also called for [press release; JURIST report] the UN General Assembly [official website] to appoint a special envoy to investigate allegations of human rights abuses following the 2009 presidential elections.




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

Belgium officially bans burqa
Julia Zebley on July 14, 2011 1:59 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Belgium's interim cabinet announced via the Belgian Official Journal [official website, in French and Dutch] Thursday that the nation will be officially banning the burqa [EurActiv report]. The Belgian House of Representatives [official website, in French] voted 136-0 to approve the law in April 2010 [JURIST report] and the Senate [official website, in French] approved it in May [DPA report] of that year, but the law's implementation was delayed by Belgium's political crisis. Violators of the new law will be fined € 137.50 and could receive a week in jail. The law is set to go into effect on July 23.

A French Muslim couple living in the UK filed a challenge [JURIST report] last month in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] over the French ban [materials, in French] on full face coverings. Also in June, a Spanish court upheld a city ban on veils in municipal buildings for identification and security purposes. Under the French ban, people caught wearing facial coverings in public can be fined € 150 (USD $215) and/or ordered to take a citizenship class. In addition, anyone convicted of forcing a someone else to cover their face may be fined up to 30,000 euro and jailed for one year [AFP report, in French], and the penalties double if the incident involves a minor. The ban affects citizens, residents and tourists alike, and extends to all public places [Le Figaro backgrounder, in French], including airports, hospitals, government offices and even places of worship that are open to the public. In October, the French Constitutional Council ruled that the ban conforms with the Constitution [JURIST report]. Also in October, Dutch politician Geert Wilders [personal website, in Dutch] said that the Netherlands will ban the burqa [JURIST report] as part of the government's plan to form a minority coalition. In August, 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 two abstaining.




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

Rights group urges Kuwait to release 2 in detention for Internet message
Zach Zagger on July 14, 2011 11:34 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Thursday urged Kuwait to immediately release [press release] two men being detained for posting messages on the Internet criticizing Middle East rulers. HRW reported that in June authorities detained and investigated Nasser Abul [Twitter feed, in Arabic] for threatening state security using Twitter and Lawrence al-Rashidi for posting a YouTube video criticizing Kuwait leader Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah [BBC profile]. HRW said that Kuwait should investigate the alleged mistreatment of Abul in detention, who it says is being held for Tweets criticizing the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. His Tweets support the protestors demonstrations against Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa [official profile]. Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said, "Abul has been held for more than a month on the basis of a few tweets that clearly constitute protected speech. His detention appears to be an illegal effort to punish him and intimidate others who might dare be critical about Kuwait's fellow Gulf monarchs." HRW also reports that Abul is being subjected to sleep deprivation and being held in solitary confinement. Al-rashidi is allegedly being held for posting a YouTube video calling for Al-Sabah to step down.

The two men are not the first to be persecuted for criticizing the demonstrations in the Middle East. In April, HRW reported that an Egyptian military court convicted blogger [JURIST report] Maikel Nabil and sentenced him to three years in prison for criticizing the army and raising questions over reform in the wake of revolution. The 25-year-old blogger and activist was arrested at his home on March 28 and charged with "insulting the military establishment" and "spreading false information" for criticizing the army's handling of the revolution that began on January 25. He posted an article on his blog on March 7 saying the army had beat, tortured and killed protesters, including some who were cooperating with security forces. He was then sentenced without a formal hearing and without his lawyers present.




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

Rights groups urge Russia probe of activist Estemirova murder
Maureen Cosgrove on July 14, 2011 10:21 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW), Civil Rights Defenders (CRD), Front Line Defenders (FLD), Amnesty International (AI) and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) [advocacy websites] on Thursday released a joint statement urging the Russian government to investigate the murder [text] of rights activist Natalia Estemirova [BBC obituary]. Estemirova, who was kidnapped in Grozny in July 2009 and shot to death, reported regularly on human rights abuses committed by the Chechen government, including extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances. Her body, which had been shot multiple times, was found [Moscow Times report] in nearby Ingushetia. Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, expressed concern that the investigation has not yielded satisfactory evidence:
Two years after Estemirova's murder, there are more questions than answers about the circumstances surrounding her killing. The Russian authorities need to deliver justice in Estemirova's case to demonstrate their sincerity about protecting human rights in Chechnya and throughout the North Caucasus.
The advocacy groups emphasized the need for a "thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation" so the perpetrators could be held accountable. Joint Mobile Group of the Russian Human Rights Organizations in Chechnya, a group whose members are regularly threatened for pursuing human rights issues, is currently handling the Estemirova case, along with a number of other human rights cases.

Estemirova is one of several rights advocates to be gunned down in Russia in recent years. Prominent opposition leader and human rights activist in Russia's southern province of Ingushetia [official website, in Russian], Maksharip Aushev, was shot dead [JURIST report] in October 2009 while traveling on a highway in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria. In August 2009, Chechen human rights activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were found dead [JURIST report]. Sadulayeva's death came less than a month after Estemirova's death. The body of Russian human rights activist Andrei Kulagin [JURIST report] was found in a quarry in June 2009. Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin expressed concern in April 2009 that activists in Russia were being attacked with greater frequency [JURIST report]. In January 2009, Russian human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov was shot and killed [JURIST report] in Moscow. Markelov represented journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary], who was shot to death [JURIST report] in October 2006. JURIST Forum Guest Columnist Pamela A. Jordan argues that Estemirova's murder may help jolt average Russians into demanding that their leaders engage in legal reform in her op-ed Strong-arm Rule or Rule of Law? Prospects for Legal Reform in Russia [JURIST op-ed].




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

UK Supreme Court bars 'secret evidence' in Guantanamo trials
Julia Zebley on July 14, 2011 9:30 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UK Supreme Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Wednesday that secret service organizations cannot withhold evidence from opposing parties nor conduct closed trials. The appellants, secret service organizations including MI5 [official website], appealing a May 2010 ruling [JURIST report], requested the creation of a "closed material procedure," saying the disclosure of their evidence to the appellees, former Guantanamo detainees, would be contrary to the public interest. This procedure would have involved a special advocate being appointed to the plaintiffs in a civil case to impartially consider the defendants' evidence but not reveal any of it to the plaintiffs. The court rejected this idea, citing the public interest immunity (PII) doctrine as more than suitable for classified information as evidence, and that it was not in the judiciary's power to allow or enforce a new doctrine. The PII allows for information to not be disclosed to opposing parties when it would not be in the public's interest.
[T]he right to be confronted by one's accusers is such a fundamental element of the common law right to a fair trial that the court cannot abrogate it in the exercise of its inherent power. Only Parliament can do that. The closed material procedure excludes a party from the closed part of the trial. He cannot see the witnesses who speak in that part of the trial; nor can he see closed documents; he cannot hear or read the closed evidence or the submissions made in the closed hearing; and finally he cannot see the judge delivering the closed judgment nor can he read it.
The court did suggest Parliament could create a law to allow "secret evidence" if it chose. The Guardian, an intervening party in the suit for the plaintiffs, was pleased with the decision [report], calling it a victory for open justice.

The initial suit, a civil case brought by British resident and Iraqi citizen Bisher al-Rawi with other Guantanamo detainees, Binyam Mohamed, Jamil el-Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes and Martin Mubanga, was appealed by MI5 and MI6 [official website] after the detainees asserted that the organizations "aided and abetted" their illegal detention. Their claims for recompense were settled [JURIST report] in November by the UK government. Bisher al-Rawi was released [JURIST report] in April 2007 from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] after nearly five years in custody as an enemy combatant. Al-Rawi was originally suspected of ties to al Qaeda because of his alleged connection with radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada [BBC profile]. He was arrested returning to the UK from Gambia with a suspicious electronic device, which they claimed was a battery charger, and were taken into US custody.




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

Ex-hedge fund trader settles SEC civil charges
Maureen Cosgrove on July 14, 2011 9:18 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Former hedge fund trader Danielle Chiesi on Wednesday agreed to pay USD $540,000 to settle a civil charge with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website]. Chiesi was accused of communicating non-public information about IBM Corporation, Advanced Microdevices (AMD) and Sun Microsystems (now Sun-Oracle) [corporate websites] in 2008 and 2009 to her superiors at New Castle Funds LLC [fund profile], a Manhattan-based investment advisory company formerly part of Bear Stearns [NYT backgrounder]. Chiesi was arrested in 2009 along with Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam [JURIST news archive] and accused of using the information to reap more than $4 million in illegal profits for New Castle. The settlement Chiesi agreed to pay amounted to a large portion of her net worth [WSJ report], including salary and bonuses she received during the conspiracy activity. She pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in January to three criminal counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud before judge Richard Holwell of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website]. Chiesi faces over three years in prison for the criminal charges when she is sentenced on July 20 in federal court.

A federal jury convicted [JURIST report] Rajaratnam in May on all 14 counts of insider trading. New Castle is said to have gained at least $1.7 million from the trades. Chiesi reportedly got the information from former IBM executive Robert Moffat, with whom she was having an affair. Moffat is currently serving six months in prison for insider trading in connection with the Galleon case. Moffat was sentenced [JURIST report] in September 2010 and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for his role in the scheme after he pleaded guilty [JURIST report] the previous March. 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 2010. 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 non-public information about several corporations upon which the funds traded, generating $25 million in illicit gain. Rajaratnam and Chiesi initially pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in December 2009 after being indicted for insider trading.




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

Federal court blocks NYC law forcing pregnancy centers to disclose services
Zach Zagger on July 14, 2011 9:09 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] Wednesday blocked [opinion, PDF] a New York City ordinance requiring non-profit pregnancy centers to disclose whether they provide abortion [JURIST news archive] services or emergency contraception. The law [Local Law 17 § 20-816] requires facilities meeting the definition of a "pregnancy center" to disclose certain information to patients: that New York City Department of Health and Hygiene [official website] advises woman to consult with a licensed medical provider; whether the facility has a licensed medical provider on staff; and whether the facility provides "referrals for abortion, emergency contraception, and prenatal care." The court granted a preliminary injunction holding that such requirements likely infringe on the non-profit facilities' First Amendment [text] rights under a strict scrutiny standard. New York City argued that the law should be held to a lower standard of scrutiny since the restriction was on a form of commercial speech. The city argued that though the facilities operate for a charitable purpose, they provide services and goods with economic value and in return have the opportunity to advocate against abortion and either prevent or delay a decision to terminate a pregnancy." But Judge William Pauley said that just because a facility provides a good or service with economic value does not make it a commercial entity:
the Plaintiffs engage in commercial speech because they are provided with an audience to whom they can espouse their beliefs—is particularly offensive to free speech principles. While Defendants apparently regard an assembly of people as an economic commodity, this court does not. Under such a view flyers for political rallies, religious literature promoting church attendance, or similar forms of expression would constitute commercial speech merely because they assemble listeners for the speaker. Accepting that proposition would permit the Government to inject its own message into virtually all speech designed to advocate a message to more than a single individual and thereby eviscerate the First Amendment's protections.
The lawsuit was brought by a group of non-profit pregnancy facilities represented by the American Center of Law and Justice (ACLJ) [advocacy website]. The ACLJ touted the decision [press release] as a First Amendment win for pro-life advocates.

There are currently several lawsuits challenging state laws placing restrictions on abortions. Earlier this month, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to block a new Texas requiring a woman to have a sonogram with the doctor describing the fetus in detail before having an abortion. The lawsuit claims that by forcing the physician to deliver government-mandated materials to the patient, it violates the First Amendment rights of both the patient and of the physician. It forces patients to hear what CRR claims is politically-motivated speech before making a decision and forces physicians to deliver unwanted information. Last month, the CRR won a preliminary injunction in the US District Court for the District of Kansas [official website] to block a Kansas regulation [SB36] requiring clinics within the state to obtain a license to perform abortions. Earlier that week, a judge for the US District Court for the District of South Dakota [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] blocking a South Dakota abortion regulation [HB 1217] requiring a 72-hour waiting period.




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

US lawmakers urge probe of News Corp 9/11 hacking claim
Erin Bock on July 14, 2011 8:32 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Members of the US Senate and House of Representatives [official websites] called on US agencies Wednesday to open an investigation into whether journalists working for the media company News Corporation (News Corp.) [media website] and its subsidiaries violated US laws by hacking into the mobile phones of 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] victims. The requests are in response to an article [text] published in the British tabloid, The Daily Mirror [official website], claiming that journalists working for the company offered to pay a New York City police officer in exchange for victims' phone information and call details. US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) [official website] sent a letter [text] to Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] requesting an investigation into whether the allegations are true. Representative Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter [text] to the FBI urging an investigation and stating that, if true, News Corp.'s actions would merit felony charges for corruption of public officials and wiretapping. King stated that any guilty parties "should receive the harshest sanctions available under law" and called for the protection of 9/11 families.
It is revolting to imagine that members of the media would seek to compromise the integrity of a public official for financial gain in the pursuit of yellow journalism. The 9/11 families have suffered egregiously, but unfortunately they remain vulnerable against such unjustifiable parasitic strains. We can spare no effort or expense in continuing our support for them.
US Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) [official websites] sent a letter [text] to Holder and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] asking both to investigate the wiretapping allegations and to determine whether News. Corp violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) [background materials, PDF] by using bribery to collect private information in the UK. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) wrote a similar letter [text, PDF] to Holder and the SEC.

These requests follow recent reports that journalists for the now-defunct British tabloid, News of the World [media website], a News Corp. subsidiary, paid London police officers for private information, including telephone records, to use in various news stories. The company could face additional charges under the accounting provisions of the FPCA for not properly recording any illicit transactions in their books.




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

Utah polygamy law challenged in federal lawsuit
Julia Zebley on July 13, 2011 2:55 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A polygamous family filed a lawsuit [complaint text, PDF] on Wednesday in the US District Court for the District of Utah [official website] seeking to overturn the state's prohibition on bigamy [Utah Code 76-7-101] as a violation of their civil rights. While the complaint acknowledges that the US Supreme Court upheld the criminalization of polygamy in Reynolds v. US [text], it suggests that criminal sanctions for committing any private, intimate behavior between consenting adults was struck down in Lawrence v. Texas [text], when the court ruled that states could not criminalize sodomy. The parties also state they do not seek official federal or state recognition of their marriage, but an end to prosecutions for having a "plural family."
The criminal bigamy law criminalizes not just polygamous marriages but also an array of plural intimate relationships and associations of consenting adults. By criminalizing religious-based plural families and intimate relationships under the criminal bigamy law, Utah officials prosecute private conduct between consenting adults without requiring law enforcement officials to show harm to society or those involved. The disparate treatment of polygamists denies them the basic liberties and equal protection under the law guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
The plaintiffs in the case, Kody Brown and his three wives, are the stars of the reality show Sister Wives [website]. An investigation [Salt Lake Tribune report] against him for bigamy has been ongoing since September 2010. In a statement [press release], Brown said, "We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs. While we understand that this may be a long struggle in court, it has already been a long struggle for my family and other plural families to end the stereotypes and unfair treatment given consensual polygamy." A federal judge in Utah rejected a similar challenge [JURIST report] in 2005.

Polygamy, the practice of having more than one wife, is currently legal and recognized in much of Africa and the Middle East, while it is widely illegal in North and South America, Europe and China. Polygamy—called bigamy when illegal—is criminalized in every state in the US. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [official website] in 2008 urged Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archive] to outlaw polygamy [JURIST report], which it said is by its very nature counter to gender equality. The year before Indonesia upheld marriage laws limiting polygamy [JURIST report], despite teachings in the predominantly Islamic country's largest religion allowing men to take up to four wives. However, in 2006, a Canadian study urged the Canadian federal government to legalize polygamy [JURIST report] to help protect women and children in those relationships.




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

HRW urges Libya rebel forces to protect civilians, admit to abuses
Maureen Cosgrove on July 13, 2011 11:36 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged [press release] opposition forces in Libya to protect civilians in controlled areas and hold accountable those rebel forces responsible for abusing civilians as well as looting and arson. Rebel fighters have reportedly committed abuses against civilians and civilian property in captured towns over the past month, including damaging property, burning homes, looting from hospitals, homes and shops, and beating supporters of the government. Rebel military forces have admitted to the attacks, but it is unclear whether many of the perpetrators have been punished for their conduct. Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at HRW, Joe Stork, said rebel leaders are not fulfilling their obligations and expressed concern that the violence will continue:
The rebel authorities have a duty to protect civilians and their property, especially hospitals, and discipline anyone responsible for looting or other abuse. Opposition forces have an obligation to protect civilians and their property in the areas they control so people feel they can return home safely and rebuild their lives. Opposition forces say they are committed to human rights, but the looting, arson, and abuse of civilians in captured towns are worrying. This raises concerns about how civilians will be treated if rebels capture other towns where the government has support.
Col. El-Moktar Firnana, a commander of the rebel military, indicated that most of the stolen property belonged to Libya's military government under the direction of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], and that he and other rebel officers had issued directives not to attack civilians or civilian property. HRW alleges, however, that some of the rebel attacks were indiscriminate. HRW has also reported that the Libyan government has committed indiscriminate attacks on civilians and has illegally occupied areas in the country.

Both the rebel forces and government authorities have been chastised for mistreating civilians. In June, HRW expressed concern [JURIST report] over the arrests of dozens of civilians by Libyan opposition authorities, and called on the National Transitional Council (NTC), the opposition ruling body in Libya with de facto control over eastern Libya, to provide civilian detainees with full due process rights, access to counsel and the ability to challenge their detention before independent judicial authorities. On the other side of the conflict, a three-person commission for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] appointed to investigate violence in Libya published a report Wednesday finding that Gaddafi's forces have committed crimes against humanity [JURIST report] and war crimes under orders from Gaddafi and other high-ranking officials. The commission's 92-page report said Libyan authorities have committed crimes against humanity such as acts constituting murder, imprisonment, and other severe deprivations of physical liberties, torture, forced disappearances, and rape "as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack." Also last month, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official websites] urged [JURIST report] personal aides of Gaddafi to implement the arrest warrants [JURIST report] issued against the leader and several government officials.

For more, see JURIST's Feature on the Libya Conflict.




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

China drafts new human rights plan
Julia Zebley on July 13, 2011 10:52 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The State Council Information Office (SICO) [official website, in Chinese] of China said Wednesday that they are in the process of drafting a new human rights plan to be fully implemented by 2015. Declaring the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (NHRAP) [text] of 2009 completed [press release, in Chinese], the director of SICO, Wang Chen, announced the development of the new plan [transcript text, in Chinese] in a speech to the NHRAP assessment review meeting. Although Wang praised China's government for their new human rights stances, he also noted there are areas that could be improved under the new plan:
Of course, we are soberly aware that China is a developing country, China's human rights is also a developing process. Unbalanced development and lack of coordination issues are still outstanding, such as resource and environmental constraints of economic growth, a greater gap in income distribution, inflation pressures, prices in some cities have risen too high, food safety issues are more prominent, higher quality education, a total lack of medical resources, uneven distribution of development between urban and rural areas, illegal land acquisition and other social conflicts caused by increased population. It should also be noted that in the protection of people's democratic rights, China is still insufficient. By natural, historical, cultural, economic and social development and constraints, China's human rights development still faces many difficulties and challenges, and enjoying full human rights to achieve the lofty goals remains to be done.
At the review meeting, further recommendations were made by committees on disabled persons, poverty, labor rights and protections, and the judiciary [speech transcripts, in Chinese], including creating better standards for applying the death penalty. China has consistently defined "human rights" as improving living conditions overall [WP report], rather than granting citizens greater freedoms, much to the criticism of the international community. In January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] declared that China had failed to achieve the goals it set out in the NHRAP [JURIST report], decrying China's continued use of torture, illegal detentions and the government's overuse of the death penalty. HRW also noted China's lack of commitment in cooperating with the international human rights community, as well as a number of human rights issues not slated for improvement in the NHRAP. The rights group did praise China for working to eradicate poverty, although conceded that further steps should be made.

Since then, there have been continuous allegations of human rights in China. The Chinese government implemented measures aimed at suppressing lawyers pursuing human rights cases [JURIST report], Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF] last month. Chinese lawyers and law firms undergo "annual assessments" which, the government claims, are conducted by independent lawyers associations. AI contends, however, that the lawyers defending human rights disproportionately fail the assessment and expressed general concern with the treatment of human rights lawyers in China. In May 2010, 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. AI 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." In April 2009, the Information Office of the State Council [official website] published the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (NHRAP) [JURIST report], which aimed to protect ethnic minorities, promote gender equality, guarantee suspects the right to an impartial trial, and prohibit illegal detentions and the use of torture to extract confessions from suspects. In February 2009, the Chinese delegation to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] defended [JURIST report] China's human rights record while presenting a report [text, PDF] in compliance with the UNHRC's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) [official website] process. Ambassador Li Baodong said that China has been taking steps to improve its legal system, promote democracy, and encourage non-governmental organizations.




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

Anti-LGBT violence on the rise in US: report
Maureen Cosgrove on July 13, 2011 10:46 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) [advocacy website] said Tuesday that violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people persists in the US [press release, PDF] and that violence disproportionately impacted transgender people and minorities. The report [text, PDF] presented findings that hate violence against LGBT individuals increased by 13 percent from 2009 to 2010 and anti-LGBT murders increased by 23 percent. Moreover, 44 percent of LGBT murder victims were transgender women, while 70 percent of LGBT murder victims were people of color. Over 50 percent of survivors of anti-LGBT violence do not report the incidents, and many victims were reportedly treated with indifferent or negative police attitudes. Sandhya Luther from the Colorado Anti-Violence Program (COAVP) [advocacy website], a member of the NCAVP, emphasized the need for measures that seek to reduce anti-LGBT violence:
The findings of this report are troubling and reveal a need for the serious commitment of organizations, institutions, funders and policymakers towards research and the prevention of violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected individuals. Our recommendations represent crucial steps for ending violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people in this country.
The report provided recommendations for responding to and preventing anti-LGBT violence, including creating new funding programs for victims, creating laws to facilitate access to law enforcement resources and increasing campaigns to raise awareness about anti-LGBT violence.

Similar trends have been reported internationally. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] warned in May that hate crimes against LGBT individuals are on the rise worldwide [JURIST report] by pointing to statistics showing that homophobic-based crimes are increasing [UN News Centre report], and urging that states act to stop this trend. In the US, some measures have been taken to stop hate crimes against LGBT individuals. In March, US Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) [official websites] introduced legislation to protect LGBT students [JURIST report] in federally funded public elementary and high schools from bullying. In 2009, US President Barack Obama signed into law [JURIST report] a bill that contained a measure extending the definition of federal hate crimes to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Homosexuality remains a crime in many countries including Uganda, which has been harshly criticized throughout the international community since the introduction [BBC report] in October 2009 of its Anti-Homosexuality Bill [text, PDF], which has since been stalled in the Parliament. The bill would impose harsh penalties for homosexuality, including death in some circumstances, and imposes punishments of up to three years in prison for individuals, including family members, who fail to report offenders. Uganda currently criminalizes homosexual behavior [BBC report] with up to 14 years in prison. Last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for countries around the world to abolish laws discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals [JURIST report].




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

Mexico high court says military abuses should be tried in civilian courts
Zach Zagger on July 13, 2011 10:38 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Mexico [official website, in Spanish] ruled Tuesday that abuses by members of the military should be tried in civilian courts rather than military tribunals. The court issued a unanimous ruling ordering that military officers and personnel be tried in civilian courts [LAT report] when accused of torture, extrajudicial killing and other human rights abuses. Prior to the ruling they had been tried in military tribunals, which have received criticism for failing to try and convict military personnel for alleged crimes and abuses. Many of the problems of alleged military abuse stem from President Felipe Calderon's use of the military to combat drug cartels. Still, the ruling stops short of forcing all cases out of the military court system [AP report], and it remains unclear when the civilian courts will begin hearing military cases.

The Mexican military has come under criticism from rights groups for failing to hold its members accountable for alleged human rights abuses. In 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] published a report saying the use of the military to fight drug cartels has resulted in human rights violations [JURIST report] by soldiers, including killings, torture, rapes, and arbitrary detentions. The report states that these abuses have gone unpunished, with no convictions resulting from any investigations. The report underscores the importance of holding human rights violators accountable saying, "such horrific abuses directly undermine the goal of stopping drug-related violence and improving public security. The army is currently deployed in the areas of the country most torn by drug-related violence. It would be in the military's best interest to act and be seen to act in a manner that is professional and respectful of civilians and human rights."




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

Rights groups: Myanmar army committing war crimes by forcing convicts to serve as porters
Maureen Cosgrove on July 13, 2011 9:31 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) [advocacy websites] said Wednesday the Myanmar military is committing war crimes [press release] by forcing convicts to serve as porters on the front lines. In a report [text, PDF] entitled "Dead Men Walking: Convict Porters on the Front Lines in Eastern Burma," HRW and KHRG argue that convicts imprisoned in Myanmar are tortured and forced to participate in dangerous military operations and act as "human shields" to protect soldiers or trip landmines. The convicts are randomly selected to serve as porters in the military government's counterinsurgency against the country's ethnic minority and receive no compensation for their work. Vignettes from escaped prisoners provide insight into the dismal front-line conditions and ill-treatment by the Myanmar military. Wounded porters are often abandoned, and prisoners who try to escape are executed, the report alleges. Poe Shan, director of KHRG, said the conduct is ongoing and constitutes only one component of military abuses:
The barbaric practice of using convict porters has been a feature of armed conflict in Burma for at least 20 years, exposing them to the hazards of armed conflict with complete disregard for their safety. The army forces other civilians to work as porters as well, but since civilians often flee conflict areas, the use of prisoners continues. Recent accounts from former convict porters show that the Burmese army's abusive tactics have not changed since last year's sham elections. The brutal treatment of porters is just one facet of army atrocities against civilians in ethnic conflict areas.
The rights groups alleged that the conduct violates international humanitarian and human rights law, called for an independent, impartial investigation into the alleged abuses and urged the international community to support a UN commission of inquiry.

Continued ethnic violence in Myanmar presents "serious limitations" [JURIST report] to the government's transition to democracy, according to Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile; JURIST news archive], the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar. In May, Myanmar began releasing close to 15,000 prisoners, but many human rights groups claim the government is still holding many more political prisoners. Quintana urged Myanmar's military government to release 2,202 political prisoners [JURIST report] last December. Quintana called for the release of the "prisoners of conscience," many of whom, he says, suffer from health problems as a result of the harsh detention conditions. Quintana claims the release is necessary to promote democracy. In March, Myanmar underwent a transfer of power [BBC report] from a military regime to a civil system after holding its first elections in 20 years. However, critics argue that the new regime is merely a sham since it is made up of military generals with the military party winning 80 percent of the vote.




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

Bankruptcy judge approves first payouts to Madoff victims
Julia Zebley on July 13, 2011 9:24 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Judge Burton Lifland of the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] approved the first settlement payments to victims of the $65 billion Bernard Madoff [JURIST news archive] Ponzi scheme, sending payments of approximately $200,000 to 1,224 claimants on Tuesday. Lifland also authorized a fund [Bloomberg report] to hold $2.6 billion until various appeals are completed. Trustee Irving Picard [official website] has regained more than $7.6 billion from the Madoff estate. In May, Picard released his fifth interim report [text, PDF], stating he has filed "over one thousand lawsuits to recover avoidable transfers and other monies in claimed amounts totaling over $90 billion for the benefit of the Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities LLC [BLIMIS] estate." The report also states that there have been 16,518 customer claims of which 2,409 claims will receive compensation.

In January, Lifland approved a settlement [JURIST report] with the estate of Jeffry Picower, a friend and investor of fraudulent financier Madoff. As part of the approved settlement, Picower's widow, Barbara, agreed to forfeit $7.2 billion to Picard [LAT report] to be returned to victims of the multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Barbara Picower agreed to return all profits received from the Madoff firm but insists that her husband was unaware of Madoff's fraudulent activities and was never charged with a crime. The month before, Picard filed close to 60 lawsuits in an attempt to recover more than $40 billion [JURIST report] from numerous banks, hedge funds and individuals, coinciding with the two-year deadline for seeking compensation. In November 2009, David Friehling, former outside accountant for Madoff, pleaded guilty to fraud charges [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, but denied knowledge of Madoff's Ponzi scheme. In June 2009, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison [JURIST report] on securities fraud charges stemming from his multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, the largest in US history.




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

Bangladesh prosecutors charge Islamic leader with war crimes
Sarah Posner on July 13, 2011 9:10 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Bangladesh prosecutors on Tuesday filed war crime charges in the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) [facebook page] against Delwar Hossain Sayedee for genocide, murder and rape allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Sayedee is a senior leader of the Islamist group Jamaat e Islami (JI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Bangladesh chief prosecutor issued charges after an investigation [AFP report] yielded evidence of crimes against humanity stemming back 40 years. The ICTB was established in March 2010 [JURIST report] to try those accused of committing war crimes during the 1971 war, in which Bangladeshi forces succeeded in gaining independence from Pakistan. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday praised recent reforms [press release] to the ICTB but urged it to do more to ensure fair trials. HRW Asia director Brad Adams said, "we want these trials to succeed in bringing the people responsible for the horrific crimes of 1971 to justice. While the amendments are a significant improvement, key problems still need to be fixed to ensure fair trials and avoid unnecessarily lengthy appeals." The ICTB is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday to review the charges against Sayedee.

HRW had sent a letter [JURIST report] to the Bangladesh government, in May, praising the establishment of the ICTB to to prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed during the 1971 struggle for independence, but urged the government to ensure that the trials are carried out in accordance with international human rights expectations. The letter, sent to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, did praise the parliament's passage of amendments to its International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973 (ICA) [text, PDF], including instituting civilian judges rather than military judges and mandating independence for the tribunal's judicial functions. In July 2010, the ICTB issued four arrest warrants [JURIST report] for the leaders of Jamaat e Islami, including Sayedee, for alleged crimes committed during the Liberation War.




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

Morocco rights group questions passage of new constitution
Zach Zagger on July 12, 2011 3:40 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH) [advocacy website, in French] Tuesday called for a judicial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the passage of a public referendum to adopt a new constitution. The group released a report that says it has evidence authorities used the state machinery to influence the referendum [Reuters report] on the country's new constitution, calling for an immediate judicial investigation into the referendum's legitimacy. The AMDH alleges that authorities used state media to sway public opinion and used religious pressure to encourage people to vote in favor of passage. Moroccan voters on July 1 overwhelmingly approved [JURIST report] a revised version of the constitution, highlighted by fewer powers reserved for King Mohammed VI. But some argue that the referendum only reflected half the vote, despite reports by the Interior Ministry, which ran the election.

Under the new constitution, Mohammed, who previously enjoyed almost absolute power, remains head of the army, but a variety of his other political powers are now held by the prime minister and parliament. In addition to curbing the king's powers, the revision also guarantees more rights for women and makes Berber, an indigenous language, official. Mohammed announced the changes [JURIST report] last month, which many viewed as an attempt to put an end to the "Arab Spring" street protests that had been becoming more prevalent throughout the region. Prior to the king's announcement, in April, thousands of protesters engaged in peaceful demonstrations [JURIST report], vocalizing their demands for greater reform to the constitution as well as an end to corruption within the country. Similar protests have occurred recently throughout the Middle East and North Africa [BBC backgrounder], and have resulted in the resignations of Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak [JURIST reports]. Protests were also widespread in Libya [JURIST backgrounder], where leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his inner circle have been accused of perpetrating violence against protesters [JURIST report].




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

UN rights chief welcomes decision not to deport Chad ex-dictator
Chris Morris on July 12, 2011 3:36 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed support [UN News Centre report] Tuesday for Senegal's decision not to send former dictator Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] back to Chad, where he is wanted for war crimes. She stressed, though, that Habre should not be expected to live with impunity in Senegal, which reversed its decision [JURIST report] Sunday to send Habre back to Chad after Pillay warned he could be tortured and would not receive a fair trial. On Senegal's reversal, Rupert Colville, Pillay's spokesperson, said [press release]:
It is important that rapid and concrete progress is made by Senegal to prosecute or extradite Habre to a country willing to conduct a fair trial. This has been High Commissioner's position all along. It is also the position of the African Union, as well of much of the rest of the international community; It is a violation of international law to shelter a person who has committed torture or other crimes against humanity, without prosecuting or extraditing him.
Colville also mentioned that Belgium is the only country willing to try Habre as he is also wanted there under a universal jurisdiction law that allows Belgian courts to hear cases over violations of international law.

Senegal suspended plans to extradite late Sunday [AFP report] just hours before Habre was set to board a plane. The decision came after Pillay issued a plea [JURIST report] not to return Habre to Chad, which has already sentenced him to death in absentia. Senegal had announced Friday it was deporting Habre to Chad [JURIST report] to face charges. However, Pillay warned [press release] that Habre would not receive a fair trial and that extradition may violate international law. 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.




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

France parliament approves participation in NATO operations in Libya
Maureen Cosgrove on July 12, 2011 3:19 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday voted 482 to 27 [materials, in French] to authorize France's continued participation in NATO operations in Libya. The military intervention began on March 19 in response to violent reactions from Libyan leader Mummar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] after pro-democracy protests erupted February 15, 2011, in the eastern city of Benghazi. A 2008 reform measure requires parliamentary debate and voting for any military operation ordered by France's president four months after the order is handed down. The debate focused on the cost of the operation [France 24 report], with many voters having concerns that the cost of the operations would exceed the military budget. Both the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party and the Socialist party [party websites, in French] supported authorization. The Senate will likely vote on the measure later Tuesday evening.

Participation in military operations in Libya has been the focal point of contentious debate in the US. The US House of Representatives [official website] in two votes in June sent contradictory messages [JURIST report] over authorization of US military operations in Libya, voting down 123-295 [roll call vote] a resolution [HJ RES 68] that would have authorized further operations in Libya, and later voting down 180-238 [roll call vote] a measure [HR 2278] that would have defunded the operations, save for rescue and intelligence efforts to assist NATO. Obama disagrees with certain members of Congress regarding his legal authority to continue military operations in Libya. Obama's position is that he is not in violation [JURIST report] of the War Powers Resolution. His office maintains that US activities in Libya do not amount to "hostilities" because the US is only playing a supporting role in the NATO-led mission pursuant to and limited by the UN Security Council Resolution authorizing military action in Libya to protect civilians. But earlier in June, it was reported that Obama came to this conclusion overriding the legal interpretations [JURIST report] of the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel [official websites]. Last month, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] had threatened to defund the mission after sending Obama a letter earlier in the month warning him that he was within five days of violating the War Powers Act. Also last month, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Walter Jones (R-NC) [official websites] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking to enjoin further action in Libya. Obama's report endorsed a pending resolution [bill materials] that would provide some congressional support for continued efforts in Libya, though not approval of declaring war. The report also detailed that the US has spent USD $716 million and will spend $1.1 billion by the end of September.

For more, see JURIST's Feature on the Libya Conflict.




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

Egypt court convicts ex-PM of corruption
Maureen Cosgrove on July 12, 2011 2:24 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Tuesday convicted former prime minister Ahmed Nazif and two Cabinet officials of corruption and sentenced them to various prison terms. Nazif was sentenced to one year [Reuters report], while former interior minister Habib el Adly, who is already serving a 12-year prison sentence, was sentenced to five years. Former finance minister Yousef Boutros was tried and sentenced in absentia to 10 years. The three former officials, all of which were charged in April [JURIST report] and served under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive], granted a no-bid contract [Al Jazeera report] to a German businessman to sell license plates in Egypt. The deal wasted USD $15 million of public funds by paying more for the plates than market price. The men were ordered to return the $15 million, while Boutros and Adly were also fined nearly USD $17 million.

The men were charged just days after the court ordered Mubarak moved to a hospital to recover from an unspecified ailment, causing a delay in questioning [JURIST report] regarding his alleged roles in protester deaths and embezzlement of government money. A week earlier, the chief prosecutor summoned [Al Jazeera report] Mubarak for questioning, along with his two sons, Gamal and Alaa. Egyptian authorities continued to question Mubarak's sons [AFP report] after Mubarak was taken to the hospital. In a televised statement, Mubarak denied corruption charges [BBC report], asserted his right to defend his reputation and expressed his willingness to cooperate [Al Arabiya report] with investigations, denying that he owns property abroad or holds foreign bank accounts.




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

Apple files trade commission complaint against HTC
Chris Morris on July 12, 2011 1:53 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Apple [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] filed a complaint against HTC [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] Friday with the US International Trade Commission [official website] (USITC) for patent infringement related to scrolling and touchscreen features. HTC denied [Dow Jones report] this claim. This is the second suit that Apple has brought against HTC. Last year, Apple filed suits [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Delaware and with the USITC alleging patent infringements. HTC later also filed a suit [JURIST report] against Apple for infringement related to portable electronic devices.

Apple's claim comes days after it filed a complaint against Samsung [JURIST report] in an effort to bar importation of Samsung's smartphones and tablets. Apple claimed Samsung's "Galaxy" line copies its iPhone and iPad technology. That complaint came just a week after Samsung filed a similar complaint [JURIST report] seeking to prevent Apple from importing iPads and iPhones. Samsung claimed that Apple violated five patents also related to smartphones and tablets. In addition, Samsung filed a patent infringement suit [Bloomberg report] against Apple in the High Court in London two weeks ago.




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

5 Somalis go on trial for piracy in Dutch court
Zach Zagger on July 12, 2011 1:43 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Five Somali men went on trial [Reuters report] Tuesday in a Dutch court on charges of maritime piracy [JURIST news archive] related to hijacking a South African yacht and kidnapping its crew. The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service [official website, in Dutch] spokesman, Wim De Bruin, said [statement, video] the Somalis were between 20 and 30 years old and could face up to 15 years for "sea robbery." The Somalis are accused of hijacking the South African yacht, Choizil, and kidnapping two of its crew members. One of the crew members was rescued by an EU anti-piracy task force while the De Bruin said the other two are still in the custody of pirates. The court is asserting jurisdiction over the suspected pirates under a law that allows it to try cases of international law.

Piracy remains an issue of international concern, as few countries have been willing to prosecute suspected pirates. The Netherlands is one of the few countries that has attempted to try suspected pirates. Last year, a Netherlands court in Rotterdam sentenced five convicted Somali pirates [JURIST report] to five years in prison for hijacking a cargo ship registered in the Netherlands Antilles. The five men were arrested in 2009 during an attempt to forcibly board a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden after a Danish navy frigate sunk their boat. The five men had pleaded not guilty [JURIST report], saying they were fishermen who were seeking help after an equipment malfunction. They also challenged the court's jurisdiction and claimed that the severe poverty in Somalia had driven them to piracy. In rejecting these claims, the court emphasized the growing threat of piracy to international shipping that convicted pirates must face strict consequences. The few countries that have attempted to prosecute them include the US, Germany, Seychelles, Mauritius, Yemen, Somalia and Spain [JURIST reports].




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

Russia lawmakers considering chemical castration bill
Maureen Cosgrove on July 12, 2011 12:05 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] proposed a bill on Tuesday calling for, among other penalties, chemical castration of individuals convicted of sexual offenses against children. The bill, which seeks to deter such crimes, was sent to the State Duma [official website, in Russian], the lower house of Parliament, for further debate. Medvedev first proposed that the chemical castration procedure be voluntary [Ria Novosti report], but the United Russia [party website, in Russian] party, which holds a majority in parliament, contends that the procedure should be mandatory. In addition to providing a measure for compulsory medical treatment, the bill proposes life sentences as possible punishment for pedophiles who are repeat offenders. The State Duma Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitral and Procedural Legislation [official website] said [press release, in Russian] that pedophilia is a social evil and a disease that requires medical and psychiatric attention in addition to tougher penalties.

The chemical castration process consists of a series of chemical injections that hinder the effects of the male hormone testosterone. In an earlier version of the bill, punishment for sexual crimes committed against children would range from 20 years to life imprisonment [Library of Congress report]. A person would be eligible for parole and conditional early release only upon his voluntary request for and agreement to undergo medical castration. Several countries including Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Norway, Sweden, Poland and some US states use the chemical castration process. In his annual address to Parliament [transcript text] last November, Medvedev emphasized the need for measures that protect children, including harsher penalties for those who commit sexual crimes against children.




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

Supreme Court asked to review putting gay adoptive parents on birth certificate
Chris Morris on July 12, 2011 11:50 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Gay rights group Lambda Legal [advocacy website] filed a petition for writ of certiorari [text, PDF] Monday with the US Supreme Court [official website, JURIST news archive] to review Adar v. Smith [backgrounder], involving a same-sex couple who want both their names on the birth certificate of an adopted child. Though adopted in New York, the child was born in Louisiana, where the couple was refused their request. The couple appealed, and in April, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] en banc against the parents, finding that "adoption is not a fundamental right," and that "Louisiana has a legitimate interest in encouraging a stable and nurturing environment for the education and socialization of its adopted children." In a statement [press release], Lambda Legal said, "We have long since abandoned the notion that the government can punish children to express disapproval of their parents or their families. The state of Louisiana cannot withhold a birth certificate for this child simply because it doesn't like who his parents are."

The appeals court ruling in April overturned a prior decision [JURIST report] in February by a panel of three judges from the Fifth Circuit ordering that the revised birth certificate be issued. Lambda Legal, which represents the parents, successfully argued a similar case [JURIST report] in 2007, when the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit struck down an amendment [press release] to the Oklahoma Constitution that would have prevented the state from recognizing adoptions by gay parents that were finalized in other US or foreign jurisdictions. Same-sex adoptive parents have recently been involved in numerous legal battles [JURIST news archive]. In April, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a ban on adoptions [JURIST report] by same-sex couples, finding the ban to be a violation of the state constitution. Last year, a Florida appellate court struck down a similar law [JURIST report], finding that it failed rational basis review and violated the state constitution's equal protection clause.




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

UN investigator says US violating torture probe rules
Maureen Cosgrove on July 12, 2011 10:54 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US is violating UN laws governing torture investigations [press release] by insisting on monitoring conversations with an imprisoned army private, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said Tuesday. Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] is accused of leaking a controversial classified video [YouTube video] of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq and classified State Department [official website] documents on Wikileaks [website] last year. Manning was detained in pre-trial solitary confinement at Quantico Confinement Facility [official website], and subsequently transferred [DOJ press release] to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility [DOJ report, PDF] at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Mendez argues that the US is obstructing his investigation [AP report] of Manning's treatment during detention. Mendez emphasized his need for open conversation with the inmate:
I am assured by the US Government that Mr. Manning's prison regime and confinement is markedly better than it was when he was in Quantico. However, in addition to obtaining first hand information on my own about his new conditions of confinement, I need to ascertain whether the conditions he was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid.
The US military has prohibited unmonitored conversations between Mendez and Manning, who has been detained for the past year.

A US Army [official website] panel of experts declared Manning competent to stand trial [JURIST report] in April. Manning faces two charges [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] for the transfer of classified information and exceeding his authorized computer access. His prosecution has sparked heated debate between defenders and critics. Those who support Manning's actions refer to him as courageous for acting as a whistleblower [advocacy petition] against government crime and corruption. He has been compared to famous US whistleblowers such as Frank Serpico and Daniel Ellsberg [personal websites], who leaked information regarding corruption in the New York Police Department and the Pentagon, respectively. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates [official profile] has criticized the video [WSJ report], claiming it provides the public a view of warfare "as seen through a soda straw." He noted that public attention was not drawn to what was discovered by US ground forces following the helicopter gunfire, including AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. He also defended the reality of fighting terrorist organizations, which is made up of combatants who do not wear enemy uniforms.




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

Jewish rights groups appeal to Israel Supreme Court over boycott ban
Zach Zagger on July 12, 2011 10:31 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A coalition of Israeli rights groups led by Gush Shalom [advocacy website, in Hebrew] filed a challenge Tuesday in the Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] to a new law banning boycotts to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The Israeli Knesset [official website] passed the law [AFP report] Monday making it illegal to boycott the West Bank settlements and its products in protest of further settlements in the contested region. The challenge argues [press release, in Hebrew] that the law harms democracy by silencing people who have a certain position and violates the freedom of expression and right to equality. The challenge says that boycotts are a fundamental part of democracy and pointed to boycotts of British products in India led by Mahatma Ghandi and the African American boycotts during the civil rights movement in the US. Numerous groups against further expansion into the West Bank, including Peace Now [advocacy website], have taken a position against the law.

The anti-boycott law was passed despite controversy over the legality of further settlement into the West Bank, home to many Palestinians. Last year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank "illegal" [JURIST report]. The statement came two weeks after Israel announced the construction of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], where Palestinians hope to establish the capital of their future state. Ban said, "the world has condemned Israel's settlement expansion plans in East Jerusalem. Let us be clear, all settlement activities [are] illegal anywhere in Occupied Territory... I urge all parties to respect sensitives and promote calm. We can and must find a way for Jerusalem to emerge from negotiations as the capital of two states with arrangements for holy sites acceptable to all." Also last year, Israel began rerouting a segment of its West Bank security barrier [official website; JURIST news archive] shifting the controversial barrier's path several hundred yards west [JURIST report] of its current location to return more than 800,000 square yards of land to Palestinian farmers. The move comes more than two years after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the government must change the route because it excessively encroached on Palestinian territory and infringed on residents' rights to access fields and orchards blocked by the barrier.




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

EU Court of Justice rules eBay may be liable for user infringement
Chris Morris on July 12, 2011 9:48 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [case materials] on Tuesday that online auction company eBay [corporate website] may be liable for trademark infringement on the part its users. L'Oreal [corporate website], the world's largest cosmetics producer, is accusing [press release, PDF] eBay of facilitating the sale of items not meant for EU markets and also for lack of protection against counterfeiting. The High Court in the UK, before whom the case is still pending had asked the ECJ "a number of questions concerning the obligations to which a company operating an internet marketplace may be subject in order to prevent trade mark infringements by its users." The ECJ concluded that Member States have the jurisdiction to require website operators to enforce prevention of infringement. The court held once a product is targeted at consumers in the EU that EU trademark rules apply but that the operator is not liable if it merely allows users to post trademarked products on its website. However, the court further held that an operator could be liable for infringement if it takes an active role in assisting with or optimizing the presentation of trademarked products for sale.

The L'Oreal case is not the first infringement claim against eBay. Last year, the Paris Court of Appeals upheld [JURIST report] a 2008 judgment against eBay for its role in the sale of counterfeit goods but significantly reduced the amount of damages eBay had 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 was liable for the sale of counterfeit goods or goods that were selected for special distribution. The court dismissed eBay's claim that it was just a mere host for selling services. Both sides claimed the appeals court ruling a victory. LVMH was pleased that the judgment was not overturned, while eBay claimed it as a win for the company and French consumers since the damages were so drastically reduced.




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

HRW urges probe of Bush administration torture allegations
Maureen Cosgrove on July 12, 2011 9:23 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged [press release] the Obama administration to begin a criminal investigation into alleged detainee abuses authorized by former US president George W. Bush [JURIST news archive] following the 9/11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive]. In a report [text, PDF] entitled "Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees," HRW provided evidence suggesting that Bush and senior administration officials authorized torture and ill-treatment of detainees, rendition and the use of CIA secret detention programs, and alleged that such conduct was in violation of the laws of war, international law and US federal criminal law. HRW indicated that the criminal investigation should focus on Bush, as well as three other top officials including former vice president Dick Cheney [BBC profile], defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive], and CIA director George Tenet. Though a number of key documents containing incriminating evidence against the Bush administration remain classified and those documents that have been disclosed are heavily redacted, HRW has compiled evidence supporting the allegation that the US committed crimes against detainees. HRW also indicated that Bush officials requested that politically appointed government lawyers create legal justifications to support the administration's conduct. HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said the current administration has failed to use adequate legal avenues for stopping the abusive conduct:
President Obama has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime. His decision to end abusive interrogation practices will remain easily reversible unless the legal prohibition against torture is clearly reestablished. The US has a legal obligation to investigate these crimes. If the US doesn't act on them, other countries should.
HRW called for an independent, nonpartisan commission to investigate the abuses because investigations that have already been conducted were limited in scope, not independent and lacked thoroughness.

Several human rights groups have urged investigations into alleged detainee abuses authorized by the Bush administration. In February, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the European Center for Human Rights (ECCHR) [advocacy websites] urged [JURIST report] the signatory states of the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) [text] to pursue criminal charges [press release] against Bush. Other calls to investigate the criminal culpability of Bush and officials in his administration have been rejected consistently by US officials [JURIST report]. In November, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] urged US Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Bush for violation of the federal statute prohibiting torture [18 USC § 2340A]. The ACLU argued that the use of waterboarding has historically been prosecuted as a crime in the US. Failure to investigate Bush would harm the US's ability to advocate for human rights in other countries, the ACLU said. Rumsfeld has also faced possible criminal charges in Europe, when, in 2007, a war crimes complaint was filed against him [JURIST report] in Germany for his involvement in detainee treatment. The case was later dismissed [JURIST report]. In June 2010, the ACLU called [press release] on the Obama administration to stop shielding Bush administration officials [JURIST report] from civil suit and criminal prosecution in relation to the treatment of detainees in US custody.




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

Ninth Circuit orders Obama administration say if it will defend 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'
Zach Zagger on July 12, 2011 8:53 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] Monday ordered [text, PDF] the Obama administration to say whether it plans to defend the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) [10 USC § 654 text; JURIST news archive] policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The court said that it appeared from the merit briefs in Log Cabin Republicans v. USA [case materials] that the government was not prepared to defend the constitutionality of DADT because it has only asserted that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 [text and materials] is constitutional and has not addressed the specific constitutionality of DADT. The repeal act is set to repeal DADT, but currently the policy remains in effect. The court ordered the Obama administration either to defend the constitutionality of DADT or submit a letter to Congress from the Attorney General stating the administration's intention to refrain from defending it pursuant to 28 USC § 530D(a)(1)(B)(ii) [text]. The court said that if the Obama administration chooses not to defend DADT, it will allow one amicus curiae to participate in oral arguments in defense of the policy. The court's order comes a week after a Ninth Circuit panel lifted a stay [order, PDF; JURIST report] blocking a lower court injunction against DADT, allowing for an immediate end to enforcement of the controversial policy. Monday's order was unsigned by the judges, and it is not known [AP report] whether it came from the same judges who lifted the stay.

In November, the government requested and received the stay [text, PDF; JURIST report] that suspended enforcement of the injunction. The government had requested that the appeal be placed on hold in light of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act, arguing that moving forward with the appeal would interfere with the repeal schedule that the Act sets in place. After hearing seven months of arguments and briefs, the Ninth Circuit rejected that appeal and lifted the stay. That decision came after the Ninth Circuit's denial [JURIST report] of a motion [text, PDF] by the US government that the court suspend the government's appeal of an injunction [JURIST report] issued by the US District Court of the Central District of California [official website] requiring the US military to end enforcement of DADT. Congress recently tried to delay the repeal of DADT when it passed the $690 billion National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 [HR 1540 materials], which contains a provision [Sec. 533] requiring the chiefs of the branches of the military to submit written certification that DADT's repeal will not be harmful. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act was approved in the Senate in December after being passed [JURIST reports] by the House of Representatives the week before. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.




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

UN rights expert says Malaysia used 'heavy handed' response to protests
Zach Zagger on July 11, 2011 3:47 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UN Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue expressed concern [press release] Monday that Malaysia's response to protests on Saturday was too strong, restricting freedom of association and hindering democratic process. La Rue was responding to media reports that Malaysian authorities used tear gas and water cannons against protestors as part of a rally organized by Bersih 2.0 [advocacy website], a coalition of non-government organizations pushing for democratic reforms in Malaysia. La Rue said that reports claimed that the Malaysian authorities' reaction resulted in injuries, at least one death and the arrest of more than 1,600 people in Kuala Lumpur, the nation's capital. La Rue said:
The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including in the form of peaceful protests, is essential for democracy. By declaring the demonstration illegal, sealing off parts of the capital in advance and responding in such a heavy-handed manner against peaceful demonstrators, the Government of Malaysia risks undermining democratic progress in the country. ... Actions taken by the authorities prior to and during the rally unduly restricted the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. Declaring Bersih illegal based on claims that it is trying to topple the Government or is a risk to national security and public order—in the absence of any credible evidence to substantiate such claims—is also an unnecessary restriction of civil and political rights.
Bersih 2.0 posted this video on its website which appears to be of Saturday's protests:

Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said there will be an investigation into allegations of police brutality [AFP report] during the protests. He said the rally was on the verge of violence and that it did not have official permission.

Last year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] urged Malaysia to repeal or amend its internal security laws [JURIST report], which allow indefinite detainment without trial. At the end of an official visit, the group said amending the laws would allow Malaysia to conform to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. Malaysia's internal security laws have been heavily criticized. Last August, a Malaysian court charged 29 protesters [JURIST report] for their alleged involvement in rallies against the country's Internal Security Act. The demonstration was allegedly started by the Abolish ISA Movement [advocacy blog]. The law was protested by an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people in Kuala Lumpur, resulting in 589 arrests and the use of tear gas and water cannons by police. The protesters were charged with aiding an illegal organization or participating in an illegal rally since a police permit was not obtained. At the time, Prime Minister Najib Razak [official website; BBC profile] dismissed the protest as being unnecessary since he previously pledged to review the controversial law. In 2008, Malaysian rights group Suaram [advocacy website] said in a report that the human rights situation in Malaysia had deteriorated over the past year citing citing the country's judicial fixing scandal [JURIST news archive] and lax prosecution of human rights offenders by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia [official website]. It also criticized the continued use of the ISA, under which it said more than 70 prisoners, including some human rights protesters [JURIST report], were still being held without charge.




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

Egypt court grants Libya citizens' demand to remove state TV channels
Maureen Cosgrove on July 11, 2011 1:51 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Monday ordered the removal of 14 Libyan news stations from the air. Libyan citizens and Egyptian lawyers filed the lawsuit, arguing that the stations, which are owned by the Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] administration, incite opposition to the rebels [AP report] fighting to overthrow Gaddafi. Nilesat, a state-owned satellite operator, will be prohibited from airing any of the 14 stations. Libyan pro-democracy protestors launched their own satellite station in response to Gaddafi's media regime, which consisted of the state-owned TV stations, negatively depicted rebel opposition and encouraged patriotism.

Investigations into possible war crimes committed by the Gaddafi government are on-going. In June, International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the "de facto Prime Minister," and his brother-in-law Abdullah al-Sanussi [warrants, PDF], the head of intelligence. Moreno-Ocampo said his office had gathered "direct evidence" [JURIST report] that shows Gaddafi personally ordered attacks on civilian protestors and that his forces used live ammunition on crowds, attacked civilians in their homes, used heavy weapons against people in funeral processions and placed snipers to shoot those leaving mosques after prayer services. Moreno-Ocampo announced [JURIST report] last month that his office was pursuing arrest warrants against Gaddafi and the two others in his "inner circle." At that time, Moreno-Ocampo said his office was almost prepared for trial, having collected quality testimony from some who have fled Libya. There have been numerous allegations of war crimes and human rights violations over the Libyan revolt which has persisted since February. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] decided to extend a mandate to an investigative panel instructing it to continue its investigation of human rights abuses in Libya, after it published a 92-page report [JURIST reports]. The report claims Libyan authorities have committed crimes against humanity such as acts constituting murder, imprisonment and other severe deprivations of physical liberties, torture, forced disappearances and rape "as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack."




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

Germany appeals court upholds conviction of UK bishop for Holocaust denial
Maureen Cosgrove on July 11, 2011 12:06 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Regensberg Court of Appeals in southern Germany on Monday upheld the conviction of British Bishop Richard Williamson for incitement for denying the Holocaust [JURIST news archive]. The court reduced his punishment [AP report], however, to a fine of 6,500 euro from the initial 10,000 euro fine as a result of Williamson's financial circumstances. The conviction [JURIST report] stemmed from an interview to Swedish TV channel SVT1, broadcast in January 2009, in which Williamson said he doubted [Die Zeit report, in German] that six million Jews were killed in gas chambers. The interview was rebroadcast over the Internet in Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime. When Williamson gave the interview to the Swedish TV channel he asked the crew not to broadcast the interview in Germany. In 2009, the same court issued a 12,000 euro fine against Williamson in connection with this case, but Williamson contested the decision, forcing the public trial [DW report]. The lifting of Williamson's excommunication [NYT report] following the conviction by Pope Benedict XVI [Vatican profile] caused international outrage.

Several countries have passed similar laws that punish Holocaust denial. In February 2010, the Hungarian Parliament [official website, in Hungarian] passed a bill [JURIST report] that prohibits denials of the Holocaust. In November of the same year, the German Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] upheld [JURIST report] legislation prohibiting public support and justification of the Nazi regime. After six years of contentious debate, the European Union approved [JURIST report] a framework aimed at criminalizing denial of the Holocaust and other genocides in 2007. Also in 2007, a German court sentenced [JURIST report] anti-Semitic writer Ernst Zundel [ADL profile; JURIST news archive] to five years in prison after finding him guilty on 14 counts of incitement, libel and disparaging the dead.




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

Senegal reverses decision to deport Chad ex-dictator
Zach Zagger on July 11, 2011 11:44 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Senegal reversed its decision Sunday to send former Chad dictator Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] back to Chad after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] warned he could be tortured. Senegal suspended plans late Sunday [AFP report] just hours before Habre was set to board a plane. The decision came after Pillay issued a plea [JURIST report] not to return Habre to Chad, which has already sentenced him to death in absentia and where she fears he will be tortured. Senegal had announced Friday it was deporting Habre to Chad [JURIST report] to face charges for war crimes. However, Pillay warned [press release] that Habre would not receive a fair trial in Chad and that extradition may violate international law:
I urge the Government of Senegal to review its decision and to ensure that Habre's extradition is carried out in a way that ensures his fair trial rights will be respected and he will not be subjected to torture or the death penalty. As a party to the Convention Against Torture, Senegal may not extradite a person to a state where there are substantial grounds for believing he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. At the very least Senegal must obtain fair trial guarantees from the Government of Chad before any extradition takes place. ... Extraditing Habre in the present circumstances, in which those guarantees are not yet in place, may amount to a violation of international law. ... Justice and accountability are of paramount importance and must be attained through a fair process in accordance with human rights law.
Habre is also wanted in Belgium under a universal jurisdiction law that allows Belgian courts to here cases over violations of international law, but Senegal has long refused extradition. 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.

Senegal government spokesman, Moustapha Guirassy, said Friday that the decision to deport Habre was based on a desire to be in compliance with the African Union [official website]. Senegal has been under pressure to send Habre to a country where he will face trial for his alleged war crimes committed during his rule of Chad. Last year, an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [JURIST report] cited the case of Habre as a prime example of Senegal's "contempt" for the rule of law. 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. Also in 2009, 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."




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

Austria extradites Croatia ex-PM to face corruption charges
Zach Zagger on July 11, 2011 9:21 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] An Austrian court approved the extradition Monday of former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader back to Croatia to face corruption charges. The court completed the paperwork allowing Sanader to be extradited [Telegraph report] back to Croatia. He will face charges of abuse of power, corruption and fraud for taking nearly €4 million from public firms and state institutions. Sanader was being held in Austria where he was arrested [JURIST report] last December pursuant to a warrant issued by Croatia. Sanader had begun an appeal of his extradition arguing that it would be impossible to receive a fair trial in Croatia, but he dropped it after media speculation [JURIST report] suggested the appeal process could harm Croatia's accession to the EU.

Last month, the European Council [official website] agreed to grant Croatia [EC materials] EU membership following six years of accession negotiations. The decision calls for negotiations to close by the end of the month and the accession treaty to be signed by year's end, allowing for the country to become the 28th member of the EU on July 1, 2013. In the interim, EU leaders strongly encouraged Croatia to continue pursuing crucial reform initiatives. On the same day Sanader was arrested, former interior ministry official Tomislav Mercep was arrested [JURIST report] on charges of committing war crimes. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; press release] calling for the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes the day before Mercep's arrest.




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

Uganda charges rebel leader in first war crimes trial
Maureen Cosgrove on July 11, 2011 9:13 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Ugandan court on Monday began its first war crimes trial of a commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], a Ugandan rebel group. The International Crimes Division (ICD) [official website, JURIST news archive] of the High Court of Uganda [JURIST news archive] charged Thomas Kwoyelo [AFP report] on 53 counts of willful killing, hostage taking, destruction of property and causing injury that took place during Uganda's civil war [BBC backgrounder]. Kwoyelo, who was taken into custody [HRW backgrounder] in March 2009, joined the LRA in 1987 and allegedly participated in war crimes from 1992 through 2005 during his tenure as "colonel" of the rebel group. Kwoyelo denies committing the crimes.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] in May 2008, said it was investigating possible new war crimes [JURIST report] committed by the LRA in recent attacks on Ugandan villages. In March 2008, the ICC said that arrest warrants issued by the ICC for LRA leaders [JURIST report] remain in effect, despite requests from Uganda that they be withdrawn. The four ICC-issued warrants were executed in 2005 and include LRA leader Joseph Kony and LRA senior member Vincent Otti [BBC profiles]. In 2007, Otti was executed by rebels [BBC report], though official confirmation of his death was delayed until January amid fears that it would disrupt peace talks. Kony, who remains in hiding, is wanted for orchestrating the killing of thousands of civilians and the enslavement of thousands more children over two decades of conflict. The government has said that Kony is willing to face trial at home [JURIST report], but not at the ICC. Uganda established the ICD [JURIST report] in February 2008 to try the suspected war crimes perpetrators. A fifth arrest warrant was initially issued for Raska Lukwiya but was later withdrawn after a July 2007 ICC pre-trial chamber decision.




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

Europe rights court rejects appeals against Switzerland minaret ban
Aman Kakar on July 10, 2011 3:22 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] rejected two appeals [decision, in French; press release] from Swiss Muslims challenging Switzerland's ban on construction of minarets. The court ruled that the appeals were inadmissible because the complaints failed to meet the requirements of Article 35 Section 3 and 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Specifically, the court found that since the appeals were only meant to challenge a constitutional provision in a general manner in Switzerland, the applicants had failed to show any specific injury. Supporters and opponents were not surprised [Swissinfo report] by the ECHR's decision. Hafid Ouardiri, one of the challengers, characterized his failed challenge as a necessary step and was encouraged by the court's statement that the Swiss courts "would be able to would be able to examine the compatibility of a possible refusal to authorise the construction of a minaret with the European Human Rights Convention".

Ouardiri filed his complaint [JURIST report] in December 2009, alleging that the ban violates his rights to freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination under Articles 9, 13, and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In December 2009, a group of Swiss intellectuals called for [JURIST report] the ban's reversal. Swiss Supreme Court President Lawrence Meyer also said [NZZ report, in German], in December 2009 that two suits had been filed in federal court challenging the ban's legality. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] has condemned the ban [JURIST report] as a form of religious discrimination. In 2008, the Swiss government announced [JURIST report] that Swiss nationalist parties had gathered enough signatures on their initiative against the construction of minarets [initiative website, in French] to force a national referendum on whether the country's constitution should be amended to ban the structures. The initiative was originally sponsored by the anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party (SVP) [party website].




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

UN rights chief urges Senegal not to deport Chad ex-president Habre
Ashley Hileman on July 10, 2011 12:24 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Sunday urged Senegal not to deport former Chadian president Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] back to Chad, where he has been sentenced to death. Pillay advised Senegal to review its decision [AFP report] to return Habre, citing a possible violation of international law due to the absence of guarantees that he would be free from torture and receive a fair trial. Senegal announced its decision [JURIST report] to deport Habre on Friday, with his return scheduled to take place Monday. After refusing to extradite him for years, Senegalese leaders stated their recent decision is based on a desire to be in compliance with the African Union (AU) [official website]. A commission for the AU met last month to discuss a report [HRW report] in which Senegal's progress in organizing a trial was described as "marginal." A court in Chad sentenced Habre to death [JURIST report] in 2008 during a trial from which he was absent.

Last year, an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [JURIST report] cited the case of Habre as a prime example of Senegal's "contempt" for the rule of law. 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 in 2009, 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."




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

Thailand opposition lawyers challenge election
Aman Kakar on July 10, 2011 12:14 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Lawyers associated with Thailand's outgoing ruling Democrat Party filed papers with the Election Commission on Friday [Bangkok Post report] challenging the Puea Thai party's election victory. The filings seek to dissolve the Puea Thai party on grounds that the party's campaign involved former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other banned politicians. A spokesperson for the Democrat Party denied being involved [UPI report] with the legal challenge. Wirat Kallayasiri, a part of the Democrat legal team, stated that the Constitution prohibits executives from any disbanded party to be involved with any other party during the suspension period. Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister, and her party, the Puea Thai party, emerged as the victors of the June 3 elections [BBC report] when it won a majority 265 seats in the 500 member parliament.

Thailand's political system has remained unstable following the coup that ousted Thaksin in 2006 and the more recent violent protests took place in Bangkok last spring. In February, seven leaders of Thailand's "red-shirt" [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] pro-democracy movement, another group that opposes the country's current leadership, were released on bail [JURIST report]. They were arrested on terrorism charges stemming from their involvement in the anti-government protests [JURIST news archive] in Bangkok. In January, members of the movement also petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to launch a preliminary investigation [JURIST report] into whether the government committed crimes against humanity during those protests




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

South Sudan officially recognized as independent nation
Ashley Hileman on July 10, 2011 11:13 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Republic of South Sudan was recognized as an independent country on Saturday, making it the world's 193rd nation. In the capital city of Juba, President Salva Kiir [BBC profile] was sworn in [Bloomberg report] for a four-year term, in which he hopes to lead the world's newest nation into a time marked by less corruption and violence. After taking his oath, Kiir offered amnesty to rebel groups that continue to create conflict within the country. Voters living in southern Sudan overwhelmingly showed their support for the Southern Sudan's Independence Referendum in January 2011, when it passed with 98.83 percent of the vote. In February, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who campaigned against secession, issued a formal decree [JURIST report] accepting the result of the referendum.

Tensions between the newly independent country and Sudan have been especially high as of late. Much of the recent violence stems from action in the South Kordofan region of the Sudan [BBC backgrounder] between Sudanese troops and troops loyal to South Sudan's army. Last month, A UN official denounced continued human rights abuses [JURIST report] against civilians in the region. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs [official website] and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] said that the UN knows of more than 70,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom are subject to violence and targeting due to their ethnic heritage. Additionally, the UN reported that several peacekeepers had been held and tortured [UN News Centre report] in the region, and that those providing humanitarian relief are vulnerable.South Kordofan is a state in the center of Sudan, and has been a disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan, due to its oil reserves. Despite months of negotiations, a final deal regarding how the two countries will share oil revenue has not been reached.




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

Italy appeals court upholds judgment against Berlusconi company
Daniel Makosky on July 9, 2011 4:10 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] An Italian appeals court on Saturday ordered Fininvest [corporate website], a holding company owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official website, in Italian; JURIST news archive], to pay 560 million euros (USD 801 million) in damages and fees to Compagnie Industriali Riunite (CIR) Group [corporate website]. The ruling [ANSA report, in Italian] represents a reduction from the 750 million euro award originally imposed by the Court of Milan [official website, in Italian] in October 2009. The complaint stems from Fininvest's 1991 acquisition of Italian publishing company Mondadori [corporate website], during which Fininvest bribed a judge in exchange for favorable decisions. The judge and a Fininvest lawyer were convicted [AFP report] of criminal corruption charges in 2007. Fininvest announced its intention to appeal the ruling, though the fine is due immediately regardless of appellate status.

Berlusconi has been a defendant in nearly 50 cases, including ongoing cases involving tax fraud and fraud and embezzlement [JURIST reports]. He also faces trial for allegedly abusing the power of his office and soliciting an underage prostitute [JURIST report]. Both parties deny having a sexual relationship, and Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing, calling the accusations groundless. In January, the Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] held hearings and subsequently struck down [JURIST reports] portions of a law [materials, in Italian] backed by Berlusconi that would have granted public officials temporary immunity from charges while in office.




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

Three Somali pirates charged in highjacking that killed 4 Americans
Andrea Bottorff on July 9, 2011 12:02 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] on Friday charged three Somali pirates with 26 counts for acts of piracy in the hijacking of a US vessel that resulted in the deaths of four US citizens. If convicted, the men could face death sentences [FBI press release] for a majority of the counts, which include kidnapping, hostage-taking and murder. US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride noted the serious nature of the charges:
The superseding indictment accuses these three men of summarily executing the hostages—without provocation—while the military was attempting to negotiate their release. With the additional charges, the defendants now potentially face a death sentence if convicted of these horrendous crimes, and the superseding indictment constitutes another important step in bringing to justice those accused of being directly responsible for the killing of innocent Americans. Today's charges underscore that we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to attacks on our citizens.
The men are accused of hijacking a US yacht called Quest in February, in which four Americans were taken hostage and later killed by the pirates. They were the first US citizens to die in the recent wave of international maritime piracy [JURIST news archive]. The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service [official website] are investigating the case and the court has scheduled an arraignment for July 20. In March, a grand jury in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia indicted 14 suspects, 13 Somali and one Yemeni, for hijacking the Quest. The Yemeni suspect pleaded guilty [JURIST report] Thursday and awaits sentencing scheduled for October. Several other suspects pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in May.

Piracy remains an issue of international concern, as few countries have been willing to prosecute suspected pirates. In April, a Somali pirate was sentenced [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] to 25 years in prison for attacking a Danish ship off the coast of Somalia in 2008, for which he and other pirates received a $1.7 million ransom. The few countries that have attempted to prosecute them include Germany, Seychelles, the Netherlands, Mauritius, Yemen, Somalia and Spain [JURIST reports].




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

UN rights chief: US execution of Mexico national violated international law
Andrea Bottorff on July 9, 2011 10:30 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday criticized the US execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia [advocacy website] a day earlier, saying that the sentence violated international law. Pillay said that the US denied consular access [press release] to Leal Garcia, which was his right under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [text, PDF]. Although the State of Texas convicted and sentenced Leal Garcia for murder in 1998, Pillay noted the broad reach of the state's actions:
Today's execution will undermine the role of the International Court of Justice, and its ramifications are likely to spread far beyond Texas. It is also the responsibility of all federal countries ensure that all individual states respect the international obligations assumed by the country as a whole.
Officials from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] earlier this month appealed unsuccessfully to Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website; JURIST report] and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles [official website] to stay the execution. The US Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to stay the execution Thursday, with the majority in a split per curiam opinion rejecting the Obama administration's arguments that Leal Garcia's execution would be detrimental to foreign policy to the degree that they needed to introduce a stay. Texas officials executed [KTSM report] Leal Garcia an hour after the decision.

The execution has drawn criticism from several sources. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] criticized the US for the execution [press release] on Friday, saying that Leal Garcia did not receive a fair trial. A number of US officials have also criticized the execution, including diplomats and US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website], the author of the Consular Notification Compliance Act, who said, "Americans detained overseas rely on their access to US consulates every day. If we expect other countries to abide by the treaties they join, the United States must also honor its obligations." Mexico, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Switzerland, Uruguay and the EU had sent letters to the US requesting a stay of the execution. Former president George W. Bush denounced the sentence when he was in office, issuing an executive memoranda [text, PDF] that Texas had to comply with the ICJ's ruling in approximately 50 Mexican nationals' planned executions. Texas has already executed two Mexican nationals [JURIST report] who were denied consular access.




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

UN calls for international regulations on independent security contractors
Julia Zebley on July 8, 2011 4:07 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries [official website] on Friday proposed international legislation [UN News Centre report] to create mechanisms for prosecuting contractors and mercenaries when they violate the law. The Chairman of the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, said in a press conference that there is currently a gap in the jurisdictional rights of countries when non-governmental forces exceed their authority in another nation.

Gomez specifically pointed to the use of contractors by the US in Iraq, and cited that as a reason for the urgent regulation of these agencies: "While US troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of the year, security contractors are there to stay."

A former contractor for Blackwater [JURIST news archive], now known as Xe Services [corporate website], was sentenced [JURIST report] last month to two-and-a-half years in prison for the 2009 shooting of an unarmed Afghan civilian in Kabul. Earlier that month, four former Blackwater contractors appealed the April decision to reinstate manslaughter charges against them in connection with their alleged roles in a 2007 shooting incident [JURIST reports] in Baghdad, Iraq. In April 2010, a federal grand jury indicted five former Blackwater executives [JURIST report] on charges of weapons violations and lying to investigators. In February 2010, the Iraqi government ordered 250 former Blackwater employees to leave Iraq [JURIST report] in reaction to the dismissal of charges against former Blackwater employees accused in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] in 2007. That month, the Department of Justice [official website] also opened an investigation [JURIST report] into whether Blackwater bribed the Iraqi government to be permitted to continue operating in Iraq following the 2007 shootings. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts expired and were not renewed.




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

Senegal to deport former Chad president Habre
Julia Zebley on July 8, 2011 3:27 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Senegalese government announced on Friday that they will be deporting [meeting summary, in French] former Chad president Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to Chad, where he is likely to be tried for war crimes [AP-Senegal report, in French]. The Senegalese government had refused to extradite [JURIST report] Habre, despite ongoing international pressure to prosecute him for crimes against humanity. The Senegalese Minister of Communication and Spokesperson of the Government, Moustapha Guirassy, in confirming the announcement, stated their decision was based on a desire to be in compliance with the African Union [official website]. Habre will be returned on July 11, although Senegal has not confirmed that he is in custody [AFP report].

Last year, an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [JURIST report] cited the case of Habre as a prime example of Senegal's "contempt" for the rule of law. 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."