[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and League of Arab States Secretary-General Nabil El Araby [official websites] on Friday called on warring parties in Syria to stop violence and order a ceasefire [UN News Centre report] during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha and urged international leaders to join their appeal. The secretaries-general directed their statement at all parties involved, but in particular called on the Syrian government to "show wisdom and vision and stop the killing and destruction so that all the issues, however complex, can be addressed through peaceful means." The call for a ceasefire come on the same day that UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui expressed concern over the killing of children [UN News Centre report] in the conflict, especially on the part of the Syrian government. Zerrougui called on "all parties to the conflict in Syria to refrain from acts against the civilian population, including children" and encouraged all sides to also heed Ki-Moon and El Araby's request for a ceasefire. The UN reports that more than 20,000 people have been killed in Syria over the past 19 months, most of them civilians.
[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [official website; press release] on Friday urged the government of Gambia to allow time for seven men facing execution to make the maximum use of the appellate process after the Gambia Supreme Court [official website] upheld their convictions for treason. Because the court's ruling was handed down on a Friday afternoon the convicted men, who include former Chief of Defense Staff Lieutenant General Lang Tombong Tamba and other former officers, will have to wait until Monday to appeal the decision. The men were convicted and sentenced to death in 2010. AI argues that this is contrary to Section 18(2) Gambian Constitution [text, PDF], which only allows for execution of those who are convicted of a crime resulting in the killing of another person. AI West Africa Program Director Lucy Freeman further urged the Gambian government to uphold its current moratorium on the death penalty and not to execute the convicts:
The Gambian government must not carry out any executions, and commute as a matter of urgency the death sentences of the seven men — and all death row inmates. They must also uphold the moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
Gambia Supreme Court decisions are usually able to be reviewed by a panel of seven judges.
Gambia had not put anyone to death for nearly three decades before August 23, when nine prisoners were secretly taken from their cells and executed by firing squad. Last month Gambian President Yahya Jamme [official website] implemented an "conditional" moratorium on executions as a result of international pressure after the government ended the previous 27-year moratorium with the August firing squad executions [JURIST report], which included eight men and one woman. A few days before executing the nine prisoners Jamme caused an international outcry when he announced [CNN report] that he planned to execute all death row inmates by September. Jamme has stated that the current moratorium will be automatically lifted if crime rates increase.
[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] on Friday enjoined Arizona from implementing a public funding law [HB 2800, PDF] that prohibits funding for health clinics that perform abortions. Judge Neil Wake declared [Reuters report] that the law may harm women who rely on such facilities for health services other than abortion. The temporary injunction was issued as a result of a lawsuit filed in July [JURIST report] by Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPA) [advocacy website] arguing that the law deprives women of several constitutional rights and violates federal law regarding Medicaid patient rights by restricting options in choosing a physician. Arizona Solicitor General David Cole stated [AP report] that while he was disappointed with the court's decision to issue the injunction, he expects that Arizona will eventually win the case on its merits. The court is expected to hold another hearing on the case in early December.
[JURIST] The Vermont Supreme Court [official website] on Friday dismissed [opinion, text] a challenge to a proposed energy project to construct wind turbines in the Lowell Mountain Range. The challenge was filed by the Lowell Mountain Group [Lowell Mountains News backgrounder] and the towns of Albany and Craftsbury, and claims that the project would negatively affect the region's environment. The court held [AP report] that the wind project's positive effects, such as providing electricity and economic growth to the Lowell Mountain region, outweighed the potential environmental concerns. The court also declared [Burlington Free Press report] that the state's Public Service Board [official website] correctly found that the wind project will not cause any significant environmental harm. The Public Service Board gave final approval to the wind project [order, PDF] in April of 2009. The project is expected to begin generating electricity soon.
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