[JURIST] Former Goldman Sachs [corporate website] director Rajat Gupta was convicted on Friday of three counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Gupta was also acquitted [AP report] on two other counts of securities fraud. Gupta was arrested [JURIST report] in October and charged with securities fraud relating to insider trading with hedge fund executive Raj Rajaratnam [JURIST news archive]. The US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] conducted an investigation and alleged that Gupta disclosed material and nonpublic facts to Rajaratnam that he learned during Goldman Sachs board meetings.
Rajaratnam was convicted of 14 counts of insider trading [JURIST report] in May 2011 in the largest hedge fund insider trading case in US history. Several other defendants have pleaded guilty in connection with the case. Former hedge fund consultant Danielle Chiesi pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in January. Former IBM senior vice president Robert Moffat was sentenced to six months in prison in September and ordered him to pay a $50,000 fine for his role in the scheme after pleading guilty [JURIST reports] in March 2010. Former Intel Capital executive Rajiv Goel pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to insider trading charges in February 2010. Rajaratnam, Chiesi, Goel and Moffat were arrested in October 2009 and charged [complaint, PDF] along with two other individuals and two business entities with insider trading. The complaint alleged that the individuals provided Galleon Group and another hedge fund with material nonpublic information about several corporations upon which the funds traded, generating $25 million in illicit gain. Rajaratnam and Chiesi originally pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in December 2009 after being indicted for insider trading.
[JURIST] The Supreme Court of British Columbia [official website] ruled [judgment] Friday that provisions of Canada's Criminal Code [text] that forbid physician-assisted suicide unjustly violate the rights to life, liberty and equality. In her ruling, Justice Lynn Smith acknowledged that physician-assisted suicide is an issue that has sharply divided both the medical community and the general public. Nevertheless, she ruled that the procedure could be safely done if adequate safeguards are in place:
Medical practitioners disagree about physician-assisted death. ... There are respected practitioners who would support legal change. ... They state that providing physician-assisted death in defined cases, with safeguards, would be consistent with their ethical views. ... The most commonly expressed reason for maintaining a distinction between currently accepted end-of-life practices and physician-assisted death is that any system of safeguards will not adequately protect the vulnerable. ... The evidence shows that risks exist, but they can be largely avoided through carefully designed, well-monitored safeguards.
It is unclear if the Canadian government plans to appeal the decision.
[JURIST] A judge for the UK Court of Protection [official website] ruled Friday that a 32-year-old woman who suffers from anorexia [womenshealth.gov backgrounder], a fear of gaining weight resulting in decreased consumption of food, can be fed against her will. Justice Peter Jackson found that, by assessing the balance between one's life and personal independence, it is lawful to feed someone even against her will if it is in the best interest of that person. The justice added that such interference with her personal independence was necessary to protect her right to life. The woman, a former medical student from Wales who could not be publicly identified, began to watch out for her weight in the age of 11 resulting in her abuse of alcohol to overcome the obsessive fear to gain weight. Jackson expressed his difficulty in deciding the case because the balancing has never been a mechanical but rather an intuitive one. Although the treatment she will undergo may significantly infringe upon her privacy and personal choices, he reasoned that given the likelihood of the treatment's success and the high value of life the decision was the right one.
The balance between life and one's personal independence has been difficult for the courts to assess. In March, the UK High Court justice allowed a right to die case [JURIST report] to proceed, the first to be allowed in British courts. Tony Nicklinson, a victim of a paralyzing stroke, challenged the UK's definition of murder to obtain medical assistance in committing suicide. He argued that the government was denying his right to private and family life because his decision was one of personal autonomy and dignity. In 2011, an India high court ruled passive euthanasia was permitted [JURIST report] under certain circumstances, but rejected a petition for a mercy killing. In 2010, Germany held [JURIST report] that removing a patient from life supporting was not a criminal offense if the terminal individual had previously given consent.
[JURIST] A federal judge on Thursday granted a request from Apple to hear its patent infringement case against Motorola [corporate websites]. Apple is seeking an injunction against some of Motorola's phones alleging that the company infringed upon its patents. Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit last week tentatively dismissed [JURIST report] Apple's patent infringement lawsuit against Motorola because allowing Apple to proceed would be contrary to public interest. Posner, who is sitting in as a trial judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] in the case, expressed his frustration about both parties' unclear arguments. He dismissed most of Motorola's arguments while leaving some of Apple's arguments on the table. Thus, Thursday ruling is more likely to be advantageous for Apple. The trial is set to start on June 20.
In February, Apple filed a suit [JURIST report] against Motorola in the US District Court for the Southern District of California [official website] seeking an injunction to stop the company from bringing patent claims against Apple in Germany. Apple had brought [JURIST report] two separate lawsuits against Motorola in October of last year alleging that several of Motorola's products infringe six patents owned by Apple.
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] on Friday that a former defense contractor who alleged that he was tortured while detained by the US military in Iraq cannot sue former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive]. The contractor, known only as "John Doe," asserted in his lawsuit [Reuters report] that Rumsfeld was personally liable for his injuries because Rumsfeld developed and implemented the policies that led to Doe's torture. The court rejected Doe's argument, saying that allowing lawsuits like Doe's would place an enormous strain on the military's ability to carry out its day-to-day operations:
Litigation of Doe's case would require testimony from top military officials as well as forces on the ground, which would detract focus, resources, and personnel from the mission in Iraq. ... Allowing such an action would hinder our troops from acting decisively in our nation's interest for fear of judicial review of every detention and interrogation.
It is unclear if Doe plans to appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court.
Doe originally filed suit against Rumsfeld in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] in 2008. The district court held that Doe could proceed with his lawsuit against Rumsfeld under the 1971 case Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The district court also held that Doe had the right to be free from detention and interrogation practices that "shock the conscience," and that Doe pleaded facts sufficient to support his claim that Rumsfeld violated that right.
[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteurs on summary executions, Christof Heyns [official website], and on torture, Juan Mendez [official profile], on Friday condemned [press release] the violence against peaceful protesters, journalists and human rights defenders in Syria. Despite the government's promise of reform to end the prevalent violence in the country, the experts discovered that corruption, injustice and discrimination are still placing civilians under inhumane situations. They stated that violence against unrest is not a solution but a fuel to increase additional violence. It was reported that civilians now are taking up violent measures on their own to counter the government's law enforcement officials which would escalate the situation in Syria. The experts called on the government to ensure that the human rights of protesters and other civilians are protected and that justice is enforced.
Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] Friday that Syrian forces are sexually abusing men, women and children who have been detained during the ongoing conflict. Syria has been unsuccessful in dealing with the unrest plaguing the country and has drawn international criticism. On Thursday, a Amnesty International [advocacy website] report revealed [JURIST report] that Syrian armed forces are continuing to engage in a pattern of abuses against and deliberate killings of civilians. Earlier this month, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic had voiced his concern [JURIST report] that the violence in Syria amounts to crimes against humanity. He addressed the General Assembly on behalf of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] to urge the international community to convince both the Syrian government and the armed forces to cease their violence and ongoing human rights violations. Syria has been attacked for its human rights violations especially in the wake of last month's Houla incident that killed more than 100 people, including women and children. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] approved [JURIST report] in a 41-3 vote a resolution blaming "pro-regime elements" and government troops for the massacre in Houla. On the same day, the Syrian government released [JURIST report] more than 500 prisoners detained during pro-democracy demonstrations. The release of "arbitrarily detained persons" was a key point in the six-point plan which was supposed to begin on April 12 but has not yet been successfully executed despite a resolution approved [JURIST report] by the UN Security Council to send 300 unarmed soldiers and other civilian aid for 90 days to supervise the implementation of the plan. In May, a three-member Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a report claiming that the Syrian security forces are predominantly responsible for the violence in the country.
[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Friday urged [statement] the international community to provide better protection of the worldwide elderly population. He pointed out that four to six percent of this vulnerable group is subject to physical, mental or financial abuses and other types of violence such as neglect, abandonment, and serious loss of dignity and respect. The element that makes such abuses more serious is that most of them are neither addressed nor reported. Ban noted that the UN General Assembly [official website] has designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day through its resolution 66/127 [text, PDF] in the wake of the increasing frequency of abuses against the older population:
Respect for elders is an integral part of many societies. As people live longer, and as we strive for sustainable and inclusive development, it is time to revive and expand our appreciation for those who have advanced in years. A modern civilization can only live up to that name if it preserves the tradition of honouring, respecting and protecting society's elders.
As the population get older, such abuse is likely to create a serious concern in the future for which Ban called countries to take preventive measures.
The General Assembly had adopted several resolutions concerning the older population. In 2002, the Second World Assembly on Aging had adopted the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging [text, PDF], 11 years after the General Assembly adopted the UN Principles for Older Persons [resolution 46/91, PDF]. In 1990, the Assembly had designated [resolution 45/106, PDF] October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons and acknowledged that the older population is a valuable asset to the society. It called on nations to cooperate with the UN in establishing measures to identify target groups.
The ordinance is content neutral because it makes no distinction as to viewpoint or subject matter and advances no particular position. Rather, on its face, the ordinance prohibits the expression of all private viewpoints and instead reserves government flag poles for government flags. No private entity may attach its flag to the City's flag poles. There is simply no question that the ordinance does not regulate expression on the basis of content. Absent some discriminatory effect, allegations regarding the City’s motivation in enacting the ordinance do not alter the court's analysis.
The question of reasonableness is no less certain. ... [A]llowing a city-owned flag pole to serve as a public forum could suggest the government has placed its imprimatur on private expression. The Constitution does not compel a municipality to provide its citizens a bully pulpit, but rather requires it to refrain from using its own position of authority to infringe free speech.
It is unclear whether the SCV plans to appeal the ruling.
RGGI offers a cost-effective, efficient way to reduce the pollution that contributes to climate change. I applaud the court for soundly rejecting this attempt—backed by out-of-state political interests—to stop New York from protecting its own citizens against the potentially devastating impacts of climate change. I will continue to use the full force of my office to vigorously defend sensible efforts that reduce climate change pollution and, thereby, protect the health and welfare of New Yorkers.
The RGGI is an effort by the states of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The states expect to have reduced their emissions by 10 percent by 2018.
Greenhouse gas emissions and global warming [JURIST news archive] are controversial topics in the US. A federal judge ruled in October that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is not obligated to reduce green house gas emissions [JURIST report] in order to protect polar bears. In September the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the effects of global warming are not covered [JURIST report] by a standard liability insurance policy. Earlier last year the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut [Cornell LII backgrounder] that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act [text] displace claims made under the federal common law of nuisance regarding whether electric utilities contributed to global warming. All eight justices agreed in rejecting the claims by eight states, New York City and three private land trusts invoking the federal common law for public nuisance against four power companies and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) [official website].
[JURIST] The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) [advocacy website] urged [press release] the government of Oman on Tuesday to stop arresting protesters and other activists who are calling for political reform. According to the GCHR, many of the Omani citizens who have been arrested have advocated for political reforms, promoted human rights and called for the release of human rights defenders whom Omani authorities have detained. After providing a long list of human rights defenders who have been detained, the GCHR called on Oman's government to do the following:
Immediately and unconditionally release all the aforementioned human rights defenders as GCHR believes that they have been detained solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work;
Drop all charges against all the aforementioned human rights defenders;
Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of all the aforementioned human rights defenders, while they remain in detention;
Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Oman are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
In the press release, the GCHR also asserted that international law recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders.
[JURIST] Lawyers for two Wyoming groups on Thursday filed a lawsuit [press release; case history] challenging the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) [official website] rules governing advertising, arguing the restrictions are overly broad and confusing. The Wyoming Liberty Group (WyLiberty) [advocacy website] and grassroots organization Free Speech filed the suit on behalf of the three members of Free Speech who wish to spend money advertising about "federal issues." The group reports that the FEC rules are cumbersome and vague and have failed to distinguish "candidate advocacy from issue advocacy." In a press release, WyLiberty said that they had originally requested [letter, PDF] guidance from the FEC on how and to what extent they could legally advertise on issues without violating FEC regulations, but the FEC allegedly responded with a vague, inconclusive answer. WyLiberty staff attorney Stephen Klein said the regulations limit free speech:
The government does not have a reason to force bookkeeping, disclosure and reporting requirements on groups that only speak about political issues, even when those issues, like Obamacare, are associated with candidates. The government weaves a web of complex regulations that restricts politics to so-called professionals and shuts out individuals who just want to speak publically about political issues and those in power.
WyLiberty says the FEC has overstepped its authority in the regulation of political speech in a way that amounts to government censorship of citizens.
Controversy over US election laws continues to arise as the 2012 presidential elections draw near. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Tuesday that it has filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against Florida seeking to halt the state's ongoing purging of voter rolls. Florida, in turn, has filed suit [JURIST report] against the US government seeking greater access to government data that will assist the state in the purging process. In April, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld [JURIST report] a portion of an Arizona voter registration law requiring voters to show identification at the polls, while striking down a provision that further required proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. That ruling has been stayed [JURIST report] by the Supreme Court. A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in March struck down [JURIST report] two recently-enacted parts of the Illinois Election Code designed to cap campaign contributions.
[JURIST] The Congress of Colombia [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Thursday approved [press release] a new law to provide a "Legal Framework for Peace" by a vote of 63-3. It is expected that the proposed law, backed by President Juan Manuel Santos [official website, in Spanish], will assist the government in engaging in peace negotiations with Leftist rebel groups including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) [BBC backgrounders] and stop the violence in the country. The bill allows Congress to suspend sentences against rebel group leaders, including those who are deemed to be most responsible for the crimes. It also limits persecution to only those who played crucial roles for crimes, allowing others to escape punishment. The bill, however, does not apply to other paramilitary groups or criminals involved in drug cartels. The bill was heavily criticized by the international community because it allows perpetrators of the gravest crimes go free. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] identified problems [text] with the new law Tuesday, calling it "essentially an amnesty in disguise" and summarizing it as too lenient against criminals. HRW called on the government to change the law to comply with international standards of protecting victims' basic human rights. Despite the Colombian governments past refusal to engage in peace negotiations, after Santos became president the government shifted more towards finding a peaceful resolution to end the armed conflict in the country.
[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] issued a directive [memorandum, PDF] on Friday saying that it will stop deporting many illegal immigrants [press release] under the age of 30 who were brought to the US as children. In the memorandum, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] declared that the DHS would exercise what it termed "prosecutorial discretion" toward undocumented immigrants who were under 16 years old when they entered the US, have continuously resided in the US for at least five years, have graduated high school or served in the armed forces, have not committed a crime and are under the age of 30. Napolitano said that the DHS policy directive is necessary to ensure that the nation's immigration laws are enforced justly:
Our Nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner. They are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Indeed, many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways. Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.
In the memorandum, Napolitano also clarified that the DHS directive does not create any new immigration status or pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Immigration [JURIST backgrounder] has been a contentious issue recently. On Tuesday the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] called for the immediate release [JURIST report] of immigrants being held in detention units in a prison in Arizona, alleging that the prison conditions violate the US Constitution. Earlier this month a federal judge heard arguments [JURIST report] to determine whether Arizona citizens may join in a class action lawsuit challenging the state's controversial immigration law [SB 1070, PDF; JURIST news archive]. In May a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] that several Arizona residents have standing to challenge SB 1070. Earlier in May, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that immigrant children cannot rely on their parents' immigration status.
[JURIST] Justice Anthony Kennedy [official website] of the US Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday ordered [text, PDF] a temporary stay on a lower court's ruling invalidating Arizona's 2004 Proposition 200 [amendment, PDF], which requires voters to show proof of citizenship before registering to vote. The order effectively stayed the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] until a response is received by Monday. Kennedy also demanded both parties file any reply briefs by next Wednesday. The order allows Arizona to enforce the controversial law until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling on the case. Arizona had filed [JURIST report] an Application to Stay Mandate [text, PDF] on Wednesday.
The Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, upheld [JURIST report] a portion of Arizona's law which requires voters to show identification at the polls, while striking down the provision now before the Supreme Court that further requires proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. It was similar to the decision of a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit that was delivered [JURIST report] in October 2010 which struck down the portion of an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. In 2006 the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that Arizona can enforce the law requiring voters to show government-issued ID cards at the polls. It concluded that the law would not necessarily result in the turning away of qualified, registered voters by election officials for lack of proper identification. The Supreme Court has upheld similar laws in other states. In April 2008 the court let stand [JURIST report] Indiana's controversial voter identification statute requiring voters to present photo identification as a prerequisite to voting. It held that such requirement did not place an undue burden on voters and thus, did not violate the US Constitution.
[JURIST] The presidents of two UN-backed courts this week joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] in calling for the immediate release of four staff members who were detained in Libya earlier this month. The Presidents of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; statement] and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; statement] said in statements on their respective websites that they oppose the detentions, calling them "unacceptable" and "deplorable." The four ICC staff members traveled to Libya last week to meet with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] and were detained on Thursday. Among the detainees is Melinda Taylor, an Australian lawyer working for the ICC. A representative for the Libyan courts said that Taylor attempted to give documents to Saif al-Islam that were from his former aid, Mohammed Ismail, who has been in hiding since the Libyan conflict [JURIST backgrounder] began. ICTR president Vagn Joensen said he would assist the ICC in any way he could:
This deplorable situation affecting our sister institution is wholly unacceptableimmunity of staff on official mission of an international court is of paramount importance to that court's ability to properly function. I stand ready to assist in any way that may be requested in order to help ensure the safe return of the detained ICC staff members.
Libyan authorities have reportedly refused to release [NYT report] Taylor, but have given two of the other three detainees permission to leave. The two freed staff members have allegedly chosen to stay in support of their fellow ICC employees. A judicial source in Libya has said authorities may continue to detain the ICC staff for up to 45 days [JURIST report].
The Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs reported that on Tuesday three officials from the ICC and the Australian ambassador to Libya were able to visit [JURIST report] and assess the condition of the four ICC staff members. A spokesperson for the ICC said earlier on Tuesday that the Libyan government had failed to explain [JURIST report] why the four ICC staff members were detained, and that their continued detention is a violation of international law. The issue of which court is going to try Saif al-Islam has been a point of contention between Libya and the ICC since he was captured [JURIST report] by Libyan rebel forces in November. Earlier this month, a pre-trial chamber of the ICC granted a request by the Libyan government to postpone an order to transfer Saif al-Islam to ICC custody, after the Libyan government formally challenged [JURIST reports] the right of the ICC to try Saif al-Islam last month. In April, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the ICC to report Libya to the UN Security Council [JURIST report] for failing to turn over Saif al-Islam. Libya expressly denied [JURIST report] the ICC's request for such action and stated that Saif al-Islam will face trial within the country.
[JURIST] A coalition of news organizations asked [letter, PDF] the US Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday to allow live audio and video recording of the announcement of its decision regarding the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder]. In its letter, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) [advocacy website] urged the court to permit members of the media to broadcast its high profile decision to the American public. Lucy Dalglish, the Executive Director of the RCFP, asserted that allowing people to watch and listen to the Supreme Court announce its decision on the health care law would greatly benefit the public:
The health care reform law deeply affects millions of Americans. There is a strong interest nationwide in the Court's opinion and any comments by a member of the Court that may accompany its announcement. Such access would allow the public to be informed of the Court's ruling in a timely manner. ... I respectfully request that the Court allow the American public the opportunity to learn contemporaneously or near-contemporaneously how it resolved one of the most significant issues to come before it in many years.
The Supreme Court has never immediately released a recording of an announcement of an opinion.
The health care law has been a subject of great controversy since its passage in March 2010. In May, a group of women in Washington filed suit [JURIST report] against the state's Attorney General, Rob McKenna, saying that McKenna's participation in a lawsuit against the PPACA is preventing women from having full access to medical care. In March the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in United States Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida [materials], the suit challenging the PPACA. In January 26 states submitted a brief [JURIST report] to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the expansion of Medicaid for the poor and disabled in the PPACA. Also in January the federal government filed a brief [JURIST report] before the US Supreme Court arguing that the minimum coverage provision of the PPACA, which requires almost every US citizen to obtain health insurance by 2014 or face a tax penalty, is constitutional. The court granted certiorari to rule on health care reform law [JURIST report] in three separate cases last November, reserving five-and-half-hours for oral argument on the issue.
[JURIST] The Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) war crimes court [official website] on Friday sentenced [text, PDF] four former Bosnian Serb soldiers [case materials, in Croatian] for their involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Franc Kos, Stanko Kojic, Vlastimir Golijan and Zoran Goronja were found guilty of crimes against humanity, and the court sentenced Kos and Goronja to 40 years each, Kojic to 43 years and Golijan, because he was under 21 at that time, to 19 years in prison. The court held that they were responsible of killing around 800 captured Bosnian Muslims including children during the massacre that took a total of 8,000 lives. They summarily executed civilians at the Branjevo farm by shooting them in the back. With the verdict, the court acquitted the defendants of genocide charges due to the lack of intent to commit genocide.
The criminal court has continuously sentenced parties responsible for the 1995 massacre and even those who left the country are being brought back to face charges. In May, US resident Dejan Radojkovic was deported [JURIST report] to BiH to stand trial before the country's court for his actions as a police commander in Srebrenica during the 1995 massacre. He was arrested in 2009 after it was revealed that he did not disclose his involvement in the conflict and his appeal was rejected in February. He was the second to be deported after his commanding officer, Nedjo Ikonic, was deported in 2010 [JURIST report]. A day earlier, the war crimes court convicted [JURIST report] Dusko Jevic and Mendeljev Djuric for taking part in the killing of 1,000 Muslim men during the massacre after it found that the two former Bosnian Serb police officers were guilty of aiding and abetting genocide. They had been indicted on genocide charges in January 2010 after being arrested [JURIST reports] in October 2009. In January the court also upheld the conviction [JURIST reports] and 31-year sentence of Radomir Vukovic for his part in the 1995 massacre.
[JURIST] Japanese police on Friday arrested the last major suspect accused of involvement in a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. The attacks, allegedly orchestrated by a Japan-based cult known as Aum Shinrikyo [FAS backgrounder], killed 13 people and sickened more than 5,500 more. Katsuya Takahashi, a former member of the cult, was arrested on Friday [NYT report] on charges associated with the deadly gas attack and other crimes tied to Aum Shinrikyo. Takahashi's arrest comes less than two weeks after the arrest [JURIST report] of Naoko Kikuchi, another cult member suspected of involvement in the gas attacks. Police intensified their search for Takahashi [AP report] after he was seen on a security camera in Tokyo last week.
Authorities in the past year have come close to ending the investigation and prosecution of suspects in the 1995 gas attacks. In January, police arrested Makoto Hirata [BBC report], another Aum Shinrikyo member connected to the attacks. To date, 200 members of the cult have been convicted of crimes relating to gas attacks, with 13 facing the death penalty. Among those sentenced to death are prominent member Seiicho Endo [JURIST report] and cult leader Shoko Asahara [BBC profile; JURIST report].
[JURIST] Syrian forces are sexually abusing men, women and children who have been detained during the ongoing conflict, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [press release] Friday. HRW interviewed more than a dozen former Syrian detainees who were sexually assaulted by either the Syrian army or pro-government militias known as shabiha. Many detainees claimed that they were being imprisoned for political activism. The Middle East director for HRW, Sarah Leah Whitson described the widespread use of sexual violence against detainees:
Sexual violence in detention is one of many horrific weapons in the Syrian government's torture arsenal and Syrian security forces regularly use it to humiliate and degrade detainees with complete impunity. The assaults are not limited to detention facilitiesgovernment forces and pro-government shabiha militia members have also sexually assaulted women and girls during home raids and residential sweeps.
According to HRW, the extent of sexual violence in Syria is unknown.
The alleged human rights abuses perpetrated by Syrian forces and pro-government militias have drawn international scorn. On Thursday, Amnesty International [advocacy website] accused [JURIST report] Syrian armed forces of deliberately killing civilians. Earlier this month, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic voiced concern [JURIST report] that the violence in Syria amounts to crimes against humanity. He addressed the General Assembly on behalf of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] to urge the international community to convince both the Syrian government and the armed forces to cease their violence and ongoing human rights violations. Syria has been attacked for its human rights violations especially in the wake of last month's Houla incident that killed more than 100 people, including women and children. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] approved [JURIST report] in a 41-3 vote a resolution blaming "pro-regime elements" and government troops for the massacre in Houla. On the same day, the Syrian government released [JURIST report] more than 500 prisoners detained during pro-democracy demonstrations. The release of "arbitrarily detained persons" was a key point in the six-point plan which was supposed to begin on April 12 but has not yet been successfully executed despite a resolution approved [JURIST report] by the UN Security Council to send 300 unarmed soldiers and other civilian aid for 90 days to supervise the implementation of the plan.
[JURIST] Fifty aid groups and UN offices on Thursday signed a joint statement [press release, PDF] urging Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder], calling it a violation of international law. Among the signatories are Amnesty International, the World Health Organization and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official websites]. The joint statement follows a call on Wednesday by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos [official profile] to end the blockade [JURIST report], which she argued deprives Gaza residents of basic humanitarian needs. Israel maintains a fence along its border with the Gaza Strip, restricting the flow of goods and people through heavily-guarded border-crossings. The petition is a short statement voicing disapproval of the Gaza blockade. It reads:
For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: "end the blockade now."
Israel maintains that the Gaza blockade is necessary to protect itself from Hamas [CFR backgrounder], which controls the Gaza Strip. A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] said on Thursday that Ban supports the lifting of the blockade and a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian opposition groups.
Israel's policy in the Gaza Strip has been a subject of controversy. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in February urged Israel [JURIST report] to change its policies that forbid Palestinians from traveling through and living in Gaza and the West Bank. The report describes the policy that causes separation within Palestinian families since some are trapped inside Israel while their family members are forbidden from entering. Israel was also criticized by HRW for never disclosing its rationale for imposing the restrictions on travel and residency. In January, the Israeli Knesset passed a bill [JURIST report] that imposes harsher penalties on illegal migrants in Israel, as well as on Israelis who help illegal migrants. The bill amends the Prevention of Infiltration Law of 1954, broadening the law to include not only individuals suspected of terrorism, but all illegal migrants. Last October, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights for the West Bank and Gaza Strip Richard Falk called for better guidelines on the treatment of Palestinian youth [JURIST report] arrested by the Israeli military
[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday swore in [press release] its new prosecutor, Gambian war crimes lawyer Fatou Bensouda, who will succeed Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profiles]. ICC President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song [official profile], opened the ceremony with remarks on his confidence in Bensouda's ability to strengthen the ICC's influence for international criminal justice. The floor was passed to Ambassador Tiina Intelmann [UN profile], the president of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) [official website]. In her speech [text, PDF] she explained how the ASP had elected the new prosecutor, thanked Ocampo for his dedicated work during his term and expressed her belief that the new prosecutor will follow in his footsteps. In addition, she said the member states of the Rome Statute [text] should actively support and respond promptly to cooperation requests from the ICC. After Bensouda took the oath and signed it before the ICC Registrar, she addressed [text, PDF] all parties starting with her thoughts on the four ICC staff members who are currently detained [JURIST report] in Libya. She continued with stating that the ICC needs continued support from all actors. Bensouda also mentioned that she will "look for innovative methods for the collection of evidence to bring further gender crimes and crimes against children to the Court to ensure effective prosecutions of these crimes while respecting and protecting their victims." Bensouda will take office in July 2012.
Bensouda has been Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC since 2004 and was long considered the favorite to succeed Ocampo, as many of the ICC's cases currently focus on Africa. Additionally, Bensouda has the backing of the African Union [official website], the support of which has been critical to the ICC. She was officially chosen [JURIST report] in December of last year to succeed Ocampo. Liechtenstein's UN Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, outgoing president of the ASP had announced [JURIST report] in November that he will recommend Bensouda as the sole candidate. She was one of the four candidates in the short list contained in the consensus report [text, PDF] the Search Committee for the position of the Prosecutor of the ICC [official website] submitted in October.
[JURIST] Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez [official profile] argued Thursday that Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] contravenes the state's constitution. Her response [Chicago Sun Times report], filed on behalf of Cook County Clerk David Orr [official website], is part of ongoing proceedings in two lawsuits filed [JURIST report] at the end of May against Illinois Governor Pat Quinn [official website] and Orr, who issues marriage licenses in the county, that challenge the constitutionality of the state's same-sex marriage ban. In her response, Alvarez admitted the allegations and concluded that the equal protection clause of the Illinois constition prohibits discrimination in the issuing of marriage licenses on the basis of sexual orientation. Earlier in the month Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan [official website] similarly filed notice [JURIST report] with the Cook County Circuit Court [official website] stating that her office will present arguments in support of the two lawsuits filed in opposition of the state's same-sex marriage ban. The plaintiffs argue that the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act [750 ILCS 5 materials], barring same-sex couples from legally marrying, violates equal protection and due process guarantees in the state's constitution.
Illinois was the seventh US jurisdiction to legalize same-sex civil unions, but it has not yet joined the nine jurisdictions that have legalized same-sex marriage. In February, three Illinois legislators introduced [AP report] the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act [HB 5170 materials], which would have provided same-sex marriage rights for same-sex couples, but it has not been approved. In March, Maryland legalized same-sex marriage, joining Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports]. On the other hand, North Carolina voters approved [JURIST report] earlier this month a constitutional amendment [Amendment 1, PDF] to ban same-sex marriage. In February, the Wyoming Senate approved [JURIST report] a bill that would deny recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions performed in other jurisdictions. New Jersey is still struggling to pass the same-sex marriage bill because Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the bill [JURIST report] and called for a voter referendum to decide the issue, rather than the state legislature.
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