[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] the listing of polar bears as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) [text]. Designation of the animal as threatened gives polar bears the lower of two levels of protection. This designation was challenged by both environmental groups, which argued that the polar bears should be considered endangered and be given the highest level of protections, and industry and sporting groups, which argued that they should not be protected under the act at all. The court determined that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) [official website] used "reasoned decisionmaking" in deciding to list polar bears as threatened, and therefore did not disturb its designation. The agency went through a three-year rulemaking process and determined that, due to the effects of global warming [JURIST news archives], polar bears are likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future, warranting their designation as threatened.
Protection of polar bears has been a controversial issue with increasing awareness about global warming and other threats to polar bears' environment. In August a federal appeals court upheld a regulation [JURIST report] by the FWS that provides legal protection to oil companies that incidentally cause harm to small numbers of walruses or polar bears. In 2011 a federal appeals court ruled that the FWS is not obligated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions [JURIST report] to protect polar bears and their environment. That decision was made after the Obama administration in 2009 decided to keep a rule made during the presidency of George W. Bush [JURIST news archives] that prevents the use of the ESA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions to protect polar bears.
[JURIST] Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] on Sunday dismissed complaints against the assembly that drafted the country's new constitution, the official MENA news agency reported. The complaints had challenged the method for selecting members [AFP report] of the assembly and said the panel, which liberals and Christians had boycotted [JURIST report], did not represent all Egyptians. The charter was passed in a referendum [JURIST report] in December. Opposition to the constitution argue that certain clauses favored Islamic law in Egypt, disadvantaging the large Christian minority in the country. The court continues to examine challenges against the constitutional assembly.
Since the beginning of its revolution [JURIST backgrounder], Egypt has been plagued by continuing protests and violence. The Egyptian Shura Council approved a draft election law [JURIST report] in February, paving the way for parliamentary elections to be held in the next few months. The new election law embodies the key changes to five articles [JURIST report] as demanded by Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court earlier that month. Earlier last month the Supreme Constitutional Court postponed ruling [JURIST report] on whether the legislative constitutional assembly that drafted the charter was legitimate. Last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] voiced concern [JURIST report] over the growing violence and rising death toll in Egypt stemming from ongoing protests throughout the country. Also in January Morsi declared a state of emergency in an attempt to quell growing unrest and protests following an Egyptian court ruling handing down 21 death sentences [JURIST reports] for a 2012 soccer riot that resulted in 74 deaths and thousands of injuries.
[JURIST] Somali appeals court judge Mohamed Hassan Ali on Sunday dropped charges against a woman who alleged she had been raped by Somali government security forces and was consequently charged with defamation against the government. The judge found the evidence insufficient [AP report] to back the prosecutor's charge that led the woman to receive a one-year prison sentence [JURIST reports]. While some medical evidence suggested the woman was not raped, experts questioned the government's medical expertise in that determination. The journalist who interviewed the rape victim was also tried and originally sentenced to one year. Although the judge reduced the reporter's sentence to six months, the judge stated that the reporter had not respected the Somalia's laws or journalistic ethics. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] criticized the ruling [press release], stating that the acquittal of the alleged victim and the upholding of the journalist's conviction would deter women from reporting crimes by government forces.
The controversy surrounding this case has been a major concern for the fledgling Somali government. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] last Wednesday urged the government of Somalia to reopen the case. Last month UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura [official profile] criticized the government's response[press release], saying the "approach ... only serves to criminalize victims and undermine freedom of expression for the press." A collection of human rights groups and free press advocates also issued a joint statement [JURIST report] calling for the release of Ibrahim and three others who were detained in connection with the woman's claims.
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