[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.
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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
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