October 2011 Archives

Federal jury ordered military funeral protesters to pay $11M to father of Marine

On October 31, 2007, a federal jury awarded Albert Snyder nearly US$11 million in damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress resulting from a protest held by the Westboro Baptist Church's at the funeral of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Synder. The Westboro Baptist Church, led by the Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, has gained notoriety since 1998 for picketing the funerals of US soldiers and prominent citizens, claiming that the deaths are the result of America's toleration of homosexuality. Albert Snyder filed his lawsuit in June 2006 for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In October 2007, the US District Court for the District of Maryland dismissed Snyder's claims of invasion of privacy and defamation. The same court later upheld the verdict but reduced Snyder's damages to US$5 million. However, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in March 2011 that First Amendment  protection of public speech extends to peaceful protesters on a matter of public concern near military funerals.

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Learn more about Westboro Baptist Church from the JURIST news archive, and read commentary on the issue from JURIST Guest Columnist Howard Friedman in Hotline.

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Niger held constitutional referendum following coup

On October 31, 2010, Niger held a referendum on whether to adopt a new constitution after the military coup staged by the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (SCRD) that ousted President Mamadou Tandja in February 2011. The SCRD had suspended the previous constitution and dissolved all state institutions immediately after the coup, which came six months after Nigerien voters abolished presidential term limits. The new constitution was overwhelmingly approved, and limited the powers of the president, confined officeholders to two terms and required presidential candidates to be between the ages of 35 and 70. Tandja was held by the junta for 14 months before corruption charges against him were ultimately dropped. Opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou won the March 2011 presidential polls in Niger and was sworn into office on April 6, 2011.

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Federal court upheld Missouri Halloween sex offender law

On October 30, 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld a Missouri state law [PDF] designed to prevent registered sex offenders from participating in Halloween activities. The law requires sex offenders to post signs reading "no candy or treats at this residence," turn off their porch lights, avoid Halloween-related activities with children, and remain in their homes between 5:00 PM to 10:30 PM on Halloween. The ruling overturned an earlier decision by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri which found two of the law's provisions to be too restrictive. Other states, including Georgia, Indiana, and New Jersey, have overturned sex offender laws that were found to be too restrictive.

Learn more about Missouri and the laws governing sex offenders from the JURIST news archive.

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France judge ordered ex-president Chirac to stand trial for corruption

On October 30, 2009, Magistrate Xaviere Simeoni ordered former French president Jacques Chirac to stand trial on charges of embezzlement and misuse of public funds related to his tenure as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995. Chirac was accused of financing his Union for a Popular Movement party by establishing fake city positions and allowing party members to collect millions of dollars in illegal salaries. The charges were originally filed in November 2007. The proceedings against Chirac were delayed by his failing health, and the prosecutor in his case sought an acquittal on the basis of Chirac's deteriorated mental state in September 2011. However, the judge denied the prosecutor's request and is expected to return a verdict in December 2011.

Learn more about Jacques Chirac and the laws governing corruption from the JURIST news archive.

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Apple sued Motorola for touchscreen patent infringement

On October 29, 2010, Apple filed two lawsuits against rival smartphone manufacturer Motorola, alleging that several of Motorola's products infringed upon six patents owned by Apple that related to touchscreen technology. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin and sought a permanent injunction against Motorola's use of the patents and royalties for unlawful past and future use. It is also sought a judgment declaring Motorola's actions "willful and deliberate." Apple has also sued Samsung, been sued by HTC, Samsung, and reached a settlement with Nokia in relation to the use of patented technologies.

Learn more about Apple and the laws governing patent infringement from the JURIST news archive.

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Vatican announced EU financial crimes legislation

On October 29, 2010, the European Commission (EC) announced that the Vatican would implement EC laws against money laundering and financial fraud. The agreement was reached after Italian law enforcement officials alleged financial improprieties on behalf of the Vatican, and seized €32 million from a Vatican bank account in September 2010 for failure to disclose the source of the income. In addition to increased financial regulation in Europe, the Vatican has been forced to settle hundreds of lawsuits related to allegations of clergy abuse in the US alone.

Learn more about the Vatican from the JURIST news archive.

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Google agreed to settle two copyright infringement lawsuits for book search

On October 28, 2008, Google, Inc. agreed to settle two copyright infringement lawsuits stemming from its book-scanning initiative, Google Books. The lawsuit was filed by the Author's Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP), which includes the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Penguin Group (USA), Inc., and Simon and Schuster, Inc. Under the terms of the settlement, Google agreed to pay US$125 million to authors and publishers of copyrighted works in exchange for permission to display up to 20 percent of a copyrighted book's total pages. However, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the settlement agreement in May 2011 on the basis that it would have granted Google excessive rights without the permission of copyright holders. Three additional authors' groups filed a similar lawsuit related to Google Books in September 2011.

Learn more about Google and the laws governing copyright infringement from the JURIST news archive.

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Japan PM proposed changes to military clause in constitution

On October 28, 2005, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi proposed changes to the military pacifist language in Article Nine of his country's constitution. The pacifist requirements of Article Nine were originally written by US occupation forces following World War II and have been in place since 1947. The proposed changes were supported by Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and aimed at providing Japan with a clear entitlement to military forces and expanding the country's role in international security operations. While Article Nine forbids Japan from maintaining a military or committing an act of war, the country has been allowed to maintain a small Self-Defense Force (SDF) of approximately 240,000 troops. To date, Article Nine has not been repealed and has created political controversy over the role of Japan's air force in the Iraq War.

Learn more about Japan from the JURIST news archive and read commentary on the issue of the Japanese military from JURIST Guest Columnist Kenneth Port in Forum.

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ACLU withdrew Patriot Act challenge in wake of amendments

On October 27, 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) withdrew their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Patriot Act [PDF] after Congress amended the contested provision as part of the law's extension in 2006. The ACLU had argued that Section 215, which allowed federal agents to access personal information such as medical or library records without probable cause, violated Americans' constitutional rights. Congress amended Section 215 in March 2006 to allow persons faced with federal demands for information to seek legal counsel and bring a challenge in court. The Patriot Act, originally passed on October 26, 2001, was extended again in May 2011 for four additional years.

Learn more about the Patriot Act from the JURIST news archive and read an overview of the controversy surrounding the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 security measures at JURIST Features.

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South Korea rights commission found gay military ban unconstitutional

On October 27, 2010, the South Korean National Human Rights Commission (NHRCK) determined that a provision in the country's military penal code punishing same-sex relationships between armed service members violates soldiers' constitutional right to privacy. The NHRCK submitted a petition challenging the law to the Constitutional Court of South Korea, which upheld its constitutionality in April 2011. In its 5-4 decision, the Court argued that the criminalization of homosexuality in the military was necessary to maintain discipline in the armed forces. The US recently repealed its similar military policy, Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), which had banned openly gay soldiers from serving in the armed forces.

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Bush signed border fence bill despite Mexico opposition

On October 26, 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act of 2006 [PDF], authorizing the construction of a 700-mile fence on the US-Mexico border, despite opposition from Mexican President Vicente Fox. President Bush claimed that the construction of the fence was necessary to the enforcement of existing federal immigration regulations. However, the fence's construction faced legal opposition from landowners along the border, who argued that the use of legal waivers by Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to expedite construction of the fence violated their constitutional rights. That lawsuit was dismissed by the US District Court for the District of Columbia for lack of standing, and the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal in June 2009.

Learn more about the US-Mexico border fence and the laws governing immigration from the JURIST news archive.

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Denmark court dismissed lawsuit against editors over Muhammad cartoons

On October 26, 2006, the City Court of Aerhus in Denmark dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by seven Muslim organizations against the editors of Jyllands-Posten, a newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. Islam forbids the pictorial depiction of Muhammad, and worldwide protests followed the publication of the cartoons — some of them violent. The Danish court held that while the cartoons may have offended some, there was no reason to think that the editors published the cartoons with the intent to "belittle" Muslims. The Danish government had declined to press criminal charges against the newspaper, although editors of publications in Jordan, Indonesia and Belarus faced criminal charges in those countries for republishing the cartoons. The controversy was reignited in 2008 when Jyllands-Posten and several other Dutch newspapers reprinted the cartoons in support of the paper's right to freedom of speech.

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Ohio high court ruled charter schools constitutional

On October 25, 2006, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled 4-3 that state charter schools were valid. In Ohio Congress of Parents and Teachers v. State Board of Education, [PDF] the court also held that statute which authorized charter schools was constitutional "on its face and as applied." The first challenges to Ohio's charter school laws began in 2001 and were based on the state's different standards for traditional public schools and charter schools. There are 341 public charter schools open in Ohio as of 2011, which makes up 9.3 percent of all schools in Ohio — somewhat higher than the national average of 3.9 percent. As of October 2011, there are 42 states, including District of Columbia, which have public charter school laws.

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ICC urged Kenya to arrest al-Bashir

On October 25, 2010, the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested that Kenyan authorities arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during his trip to Kenya. The ICC made the request after it issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir in March 2009 on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to his involvement with the on-going conflict in Darfur. Al-Bashir was also charged with three counts of genocide in July 2009. Ultimately, the African Union decided not to cooperate with the warrant and Kenya refused to arrest al-Bashir during his visit to the country.

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California court allowed atheist to sue chaplain for libel

On October 24, 2010, the California First District Court of Appeal ruled that prominent atheist Michael Newdow was allowed to proceed with a libel lawsuit against Reverend Austin Miles. Newdow, best-known for bringing numerous lawsuits to remove references to God from US currency, the Pledge of Allegiance and the presidential oath of office, sued Miles for libel after Miles accused Newdow of perjury. Miles wrote on his website in June 2002 that Newdow had lied during testimony that Newdow gave regarding the emotional ills that his daughter suffered from being made to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school. The California appeals court rejected Miles's claims that his comments were a matter of free speech, unanimously ruling that an accusation of a crime such as perjury is libel per se. A California state trial court dismissed the defamation lawsuit against Miles in November 2008.

Michael Newdow

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Canada judge ruled terror definition in anti-terrorism law unconstitutional

On October 24, 2006, the Ontario Superior Court struck down the motive clause of Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act, saying that the law's definition of terrorist activity violated the Canadian Charter on Rights and Freedoms. The lawsuit challenging the statute was brought by Mohammed Momin Khawaja, the first person to be charged under the Canadian anti-terrorism law in March 2004. The Court's decision cleared Khawaja of two charges related to his intention to support terrorism. However, he was ultimately found guilty in October 2008 of seven other terrorism-related charges. The Ontario Superior Court sentenced Khawaja to 10-and-a-half years in jail in March 2009, and increased his sentence to life imprisonment in December 2010 following an appeal by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

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New York City amended charter to extend term limits for Bloomberg

On October 23, 2008, the New York City Council passed a resolution to amend the city's charter by extending elected city officials' term limits from two to three terms of four years. The Council voted after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his intention to seek a third term of office in September 2008 and introduced a resolution to increase mayoral term limits. The resolution was especially controversial because New York City voters instituted the previous terms limits by a city-wide referendum vote in 2003 and upheld them in a similar vote in 2006. Council members Bill de Blasio and Letitia James petitioned the New York Supreme Court to prevent the Council from voting on the measure on October 22, 2008 — arguing that voting on an option to extend their own terms limits presented members with a conflict of interest. However, Judge Jacquelyn Silbermann rejected their petition. Bloomberg ultimately won a third term of office in November 2009.

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France passed bill allowing immigrant DNA testing

On October 23, 2007, the National Assembly of France passed controversial immigration legislation that allowed voluntary DNA testing to establish family ties between recent immigrants and relatives already living in France. Although earlier versions of the bill had provided for mandatory testing, the tests were optional and state-sponsored under the version passed by the Assembly. The law was approved by the Constitutional Council of France in November 2007. However, French President Nicholas Sarkozy suspended the provision in September 2009 — bowing to international pressure and political opposition. Since President Sarkozy took office on a platform of strict immigration enforcement in 2007, France has implemented a number of restrictive immigration policies that have sparked controversy in the international community.

Learn more about France and the laws governing immigration from the JURIST news archive.

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House committee approved consumer financial protection agency legislation

On October 22, 2010, the US House Financial Services Committee voted 39-29 to approve the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009 creating the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), aimed at regulating . The CFPA was proposed by President Barack Obama in June 2009 as part of broader financial regulatory reform. Although the legislation was initially delayed at the request of the financial industry, the US House of Representatives later approved the reforms in December 2009. The Senate passed their respective version of the bill on July 2010 and the combined legislation was titled the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Learn more about the legal controversy surrounding financial reform from the JURIST news archive.

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France Senate approved retirement reform

On October 22, 2010, the French Senate approved retirement reform legislation designed to keep the country's pension system viable. Debate over the bill was met with heated, widespread protests across the country from union workers and students. The bill increased the retirement age from 60 to 62 and raised the eligibility for full pension benefits from 65 to 67 and passed the French Senate with a vote of 177-153.

Learn more about France and laws governing retirement from the JURIST news archive.

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Pentagon limited DADT discharge authority

On October 21, 2010, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates released a memorandum to five senior Department of Defense (DOD) officials that limited their authority to discharge openly gay service members. Previously, many less-senior military and civilian officials had the authority to expel soldiers on the basis of their sexual orientation. Gates' memo allowed for such expulsion only after a consultation between the respective service Secretary, the Pentagon's legal counsel Jeh Johnson, and undersecretary for personnel Clifford Stanley. The memo was issued in anticipation of the repeal of DADT. President Barack Obama signed DADT repeal legislation into law on December 22, 2010 and it took legal effect on September 20, 2011.

Read comprehensive coverage on the repeal of DADT in JURIST Features.

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UN condemned West Bank security wall

On, October 21, 2003, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution which demanded Israel halt construction of a security barrier in the West Bank and remove existing stretches of fence. Construction of security barriers in Israel has been a continued source of criticism from the international community since 1994 and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion ruling that such barriers violated international law in 2004. However, Israel's courts have allowed the construction to continue in spite of multiple challenges from Palestinians.

Learn more about Israel and the UN from the JURIST news archive, and read commentary on the issue from JURIST Guest Columnist Ilan Pappe in Hotline.

Also on This Day at Law:

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Senate passed bill allowing transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US for trial

On October 20, 2009, the US Senate passed HR 2892, a bill allowing the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the US for trial. The US House of Representatives had approved the bill the week before. The legislation was adopted in anticipation of Guantanamo's planned closure as outlined in President Barack Obama's executive order [PDF] of January 22, 2009. The administration's plan to try Guantanamo detainees in federal courts created deep controversy in domestic legal communities, with clashes over safety and legitimacy at the forefront. However, the Obama administration failed to close the Guantanamo detention facilities by its self-imposed January 2010 deadline. The detention center remains open and efforts continue to try detainees in both criminal and military courts.

Learn more about Guantanamo Bay from the JURIST news archive and read commentary on the issue from JURIST Guest Columnist Jonathan Hafetz in Forum.

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Myanmar lifted curfew, ended ban on assembly

On October 20, 2007, the military government of Myanmar lifted a mandatory curfew and ban on assembly in the capital city of Yangon. Both measures had been imposed by the junta in response to widespread pro-democracy protests that began in August 2007. The scope and impact of the protests increased significantly after tens of thousands of Buddhist monks joined the demonstrations in early September 2007. The protests were also spurred on in part by the government's violent attempts to maintain order, which included firing on protesters and detaining thousands in mass arrests. In the years following the demonstrations, the government of Myanmar has started to take conciliatory actions in response to wide international disapproval of its human rights abuses, including beginning to free nearly 15,000 political prisoners and establishing a human rights commission.

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Supreme Court blocked release of names on same-sex marriage petition

On October 19, 2009, US Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a temporary order [PDF] that blocked the release of names on a petition advocating a repeal referendum on a Washington state gay rights law. The entire Court upheld [PDF] Kennedy's injunction later on the same day. The Washington law, referred to popularly as the "everything but marriage law," was passed in April 2009 and afforded same-sex domestic partners nearly identical rights as heterosexual married couples. Supporters of the referendum petition claimed that releasing the names, as ordered [PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, would stifle signers' First Amendment rights and leave them vulnerable to persecution. The state of Washington has steadily advanced gay rights since 2006 by expanding protections against discrimination and legalizing domestic partnerships.

Learn more about the laws governing same-sex marriage from the JURIST news archive.

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Portugal parliament approved abortion referendum

On October 19, 2006, the Assembly of the Republic approved a nationwide referendum that would have legalized abortion in Portugal up to 10 weeks after conception. Prior to the referendum, abortion in the predominantly Catholic country was only legal until the twelfth week of pregnancy in cases of rape, fetal malformation, or risk to the mother's health. Although the referendum ultimately failed because it did not meet the 50 percent turnout required to give the vote legal force, exit polls indicated that approximately 59 percent of Portuguese citizens approved of the measure. The Assembly eventually passed a bill that legalized abortion in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, with some restrictions, in March 2007. President Anibal Cavaco Silva approved the law on April 10, 2007.

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Federal judge barred enforcement of Georgia voter ID law

On October 18, 2005, the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia granted a temporary injunction delaying the enforcement of a Georgia law that requires voters to present photo identification before casting their ballots. Prior to the injunction, the law had been in effect since Governor Sonny Perdue signed it in April 2005. The law was approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in August 2005 and touted as necessary to prevent fraud, while opponents and rights groups claimed that the law was excessive. In September 2007, the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia lifted its prior order and reinstated the law. As of October 2011, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have passed strict photo ID laws that are either in effect or expected to take effect in 2012.

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Vietnam official sentenced to life in prison on corruption charges

On October 18, 2010, the Ho Chi Minh City People's Procuracy sentenced the former deputy director of the Vietnamese Ministry of Transportation Huynh Ngoc Si to life in prison for accepting bribes. Si was convicted of receiving US$262,000 in personal bribes from the Japanese company Pacific Consultants International (PCI) in exchange for the winning bid on the East-West Highway project in Ho Chi Minh City. Si's sentencing came after four Japanese PCI executives pleaded guilty in November 2008 to paying US$820,000 in total bribes to Si. The Ho Chi Minh City People's Supreme Court ultimately reduced Si's sentence to 26 years in prison for taking bribes and abuse of power after his family returned US$143,000 to law enforcement officials.

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US soldier fatally shot Afghanistan detainee

On October 17, 2010, Pfc. David Lawrence shot and killed senior Taliban leader Mullah Muhibullah. US forces detained Muhibullah in Kandahar province on October 16, 2011, and he was found dead in his holding cell the following night. After the shooting, two psychological evaluations reached conflicting results concerning Lawrence's mental competence — the first evaluation concluded Lawrence had a serious mental disability but the second found he could comprehend the "wrongfulness" of his actions in spite of any disability. On May 25, 2011, Lawrence pleaded guilty to premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and dishonorably discharged from the US Army at the lowest possible rank.

Learn more about laws governing war crimes and the legal consequences of US military action in Afghanistan from the JURIST news archive.

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Turkey parliament condemned French Armenian genocide denial bill

On October 17, 2006, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey passed a resolution condemning a French bill that would have criminalized any denial that WWI-era mass killings of Armenians in Turkey was genocide. The proposed bill would have punished French Armenian genocide denial with one year in prison and a fine of up to €45,000. The controversial bill drew condemnation from the EU and an apology from French President Jacques Chirac. Turkey also considered passing retaliatory legislation that would have classified the killings of Armenians by the French as genocide. Although the French bill passed the lower house of parliament by a vote of 106-19, the French Senate did not pass. Approximately 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1917 in the Ottoman Empire. Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, has maintained that those deaths do not constitute genocide.

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Learn more about the Armenian genocide from the JURIST news archive, and read commentary on the issue from Guest Columnist Laurent Pech in JURIST Forum.

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Federal judge ruled against releasing Guantanamo interrogation documents

On October 16, 2009, the US District Court for the District of Columbia refused to force the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to release non-redacted version of documents that described the alleged torture of 14 Guantanamo Bay detainees. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had filed a request for the release of non-redacted version of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in March 2008, but Judge Royce Lamberth originally ruled that the documents fell under agency exemptions to FOIA. The case was reheard in 2009 in light of subsequent legal developments, including several executive orders from President Barack Obama, with the same result. The 14 detainees mentioned in the documents included alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as well as Abu Zubaydah and Majid Khan.

Learn more about the laws governing torture, Guantanamo Bay and the Freedom of Information Act from the JURIST news archive.

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European court upheld mandatory retirement ages

On October 16, 2010, the European Court of Justice upheld mandatory retirement ages in the European Union (EU). The court ruled that such policies do not violate prohibitions against age discrimination because they serve the legitimate public interest of increasing employment. The case was decided mere months after the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) released its first major report on inequality in the EU. The EU prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation — specifically enforcing workplace equality through the EU Framework Directive for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation.

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Eleventh Circuit ruled fear of terrorist attack not justification for searching protesters

On October 15, 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that fear of a terrorist attack is not an adequate justification for searching protesters. Following the 9/11 attacks, authorities required protestors at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly the School of the Americas) in Fort Benning, Georgia to go through metal detectors. In its opinion, the court stated, "there is no basis for using Sept. 11 as an excuse for searching the protesters." The protests in question were organized through the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), which accused the Institute of training Latin American soldiers who subsequently violated human rights and committed atrocities in their home countries. The group continues to protest annually at the school.

Learn more about the legal consequences of the 9/11 attacks at JURIST Features.

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Italy prosecutors launched tax inquiry against Berlusconi

On October 15, 2010, Italian prosecutors launched a tax inquiry against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for tax declarations he made in 2003 and 2004 relating to the commercial broadcast company, Mediaset, which Belusconi founded. Prosecutors accused him of inflating the price of film rights sold to companies that belonged to him, and then selling those rights back to Mediaset for less money, allowing the company to reduce its revenues and pay less in taxes. Berlusconi denied the charges as frivolous, but a trial related to the inquiry began in September 2011. The Prime Minister has been a defendant in more than 50 trials, including three related to claims of corruption and one alleging he paid a 17-year-old Moroccan girl for sex.

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Federal judge approved settlement of health claims from 9/11 cleanup

On October 14, 2010, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York approved a $47.5 million settlement between the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and over 9,000 people who claim they became ill from 9/11 rescue and cleanup efforts. The Port Authority owns the World Trade Center site. The settlement classified claims into four tiers based upon the severity of illnesses, with the lowest tier limited to $2,000 and those in the highest tier receiving funds "according to their injury classification with adjustment factors." This settlement was in addition to a June 2010 settlement for between New York City and workers who filed similar claims resulting from rescue and cleanup work on 9/11. Judge Hellerstein also approved that $712.5 million settlement.

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UN Security Council imposed sanctions on North Korea

On October 14, 2006, the UN Security Council voted to impose sanctions on North Korea in response to a reported underground nuclear test on October 9, 2006. The unanimously approved resolution was passed amidst international concerns over North Korea's nuclear capabilities. The US originally proposed a set of sanctions before the Security Council on October 10, 2006. Sanctions included condemning the nuclear test, imposing economic sanctions, and calling on North Korea to destroy its nuclear stockpile. Despite concerns, North Korea took over as chair of the UN Conference on Disarmament in June 2011.

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Senate Finance Committee approved health care reform bill

On October 13, 2009, the US Senate Finance Committee approved the America's Healthy Future Act. The law was sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and would have required most citizens to acquire health insurance, provided tax breaks on health insurance to low-income families purchased health insurance, and prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. The law did not contain a controversial public option provision, which would have allowed citizens to purchase health insurance from the government. The America's Health Future Act was one of five health reform bills approved by House and Senate committees before Congress passed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010.

Learn more about health care reform and read comprehensive coverage of the issue at JURIST Features.

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Egypt cancelled private permits to broadcast televsion

On October 13, 2010, the Egyptian government of President Hosni Mubarak cancelled all private media companies' broadcast permits. Companies were forced to apply for new, restrictive licenses through the state television agency. Critics speculated at the time that the new restrictions were meant to stifle dissent in the run-up to parliamentary elections in November 2010 and the presidential election scheduled for September 2011. Egypt has had a controversial history with media suppression, including the prosecution of newspaper editor Ibrahim Eissa. Widespread protests against authoritarian rule in Egypt began in January 2011 and ultimately resulted in the end of Mubarak's regime.

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Federal judge ordered military to suspend DADT

On October 12, 2010, Judge Virginia Phillips of the US District Court for the Central District of California ordered the US military to stop enforcing the controversial "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, which required gay service members to not disclose their sexuality. The Central District of California had previously ruled the policy unconstitutional during the course of a lawsuit brought by conservative gay activisits the Log Cabin Republicans. The US military continued to enforce DADT until it was repealed by Congress in December 2010. The repeal became effective September 20, 2011.

Learn more about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the law's repeal at JURIST Features.

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Pinochet immunity lifted in human rights case

On October 12, 2006, the Santiago Court of Appeals voted 16-2 to strip former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's presidential immunity in order to prosecute him for the kidnapping and murder of Eugenio Berrios. Berrios worked as a chemist for the Chilean secret police and was wanted for questioning in the assassination of Pinochet's political rival Orlando Letelier before his death. The decision marked the seventh time that Pinochet's immunity was lifted in order to prosecute him for criminal violations. Augusto Pinochet held power in Chile from 1973 to 1990, and there have been wide allegations of human rights abuses during his reign. He died on December 10, 2006, at age 91, without facing trial for any of the crimes of which he had been accused.

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Gay rights activists marched in DC following Obama pledge

On October 11, 2009, tens of thousands of gay rights activists participated in the National Equality March in Washington, DC. The march occurred one day after President Obama pledged his support to the gay and lesbian community at the Human Rights Campaign annual dinner by vowing to repeal both the military's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Obama certified the repeal of DADT in July 2011 and it took legal effect on September 20, 2011. In July 2011, Obama announced his support of the Respect for Marriage Act — legislation that would repeal DOMA.

Learn more about DOMA from the JURIST news archive, and read about the repeal of DADT in JURIST Features.

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Hungary CEO arrested over chemical spill

On October 11, 2010, Hungarian police arrested Mal Rt CEO Zoltan Bakonyi on charges of criminal negligence in connection to the Akja chemical spill. Nearly 200 million gallons of waste were released after a reservoir cracked at the company's Akja alumina refinery. The chemical spill killed eight people and injured hundreds more. The toxic spill also spread to the Danube River, leading to environmental damage that is predicted to take years to clean up. On October 13, 2010, Bakonyi was released from police custody and no charges were filed against him. Mal Rt was fined $647 million for environmental damages stemming from the disaster.

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Federal court blocked regulations restricting employment of illegal immigrants

On October 10, 2007, the US District Court for the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction which blocked the implementation of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations designed to make it more difficult for domestic employers to hire illegal immigrants. These strict rules required employers to fire employees whose names and Social Security numbers did not match the records of the Social Security Administration (SSA) or risk heavy fines. The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). It argued that the regulations would discriminate against legal immigrants and substantially burden employers. DHS ultimately rescinded the controversial rule in October 2009, although the similar, largely voluntary E-Verify system remains in use.

Learn more about the Department of Homeland Security and illegal immigration from the JURIST news archive, and read commentary on the issue from JURIST Guest Columnist Victor Romero in JURIST Forum.

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Portugal parliament voted against legalizing same-sex marriage

On October 10, 2008, the Portuguese Assembly of the Republic voted against two opposition proposals to legalize same-sex marriage. The Constitutional Tribunal of Portugal followed this legislative action by upholding the country's ban on same-sex marriage in August 2009. However, in January 2010 the Portuguese Parliament approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and President Anibal Cavaco Silva ratified the law in May 2010. Portugal was the sixth European nation to recognize same-sex marriage.

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DNA testing bill passed US Congress

On October 9, 2004, both the US Senate and the House of Representatives passed legislation which expanded the access of rape victims and convicted felons to DNA testing. The Justice for All Act of 2004 [PDF] increased funding for processing backlogs of DNA samples from rape kits and death row cases and provided testing monies for current inmates whose cases might benefit from the introduction of DNA evidence. The ability of death row defendants to access DNA testing has been debated by both politicians and the courts. In March 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled in Skinner v. Switzer that convicted prisoners should have greater potential access to testing.

Learn more about DNA testing from the JURIST news archive, and read commentary on the issue from JURIST Guest Columnist William S. Sessions.

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Fiji High Court dismissed challenge to 2006 coup

On October 9, 2008, the Fiji High Court dismissed a legal challenge to the country's 2006 coup which ousted former prime minister Laisenia Qarase and established the authority of Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. The lawsuit was originally brought by Qarase in October 2007. He also made claims of treason against participants in the coup in September 2008. Prior to Qarase's hearing in court, Prime Minister Commodore Voreque Bainimarama suspended the activities of High Court Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki over claims of corruption.

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US House passed amendments to Military Commissions Act

On October 8, 2009, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that amended the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to provide suspected terrorists with greater due process rights. The Military Commissions Act of 2009 was approved by a vote of 281-146 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, granting $681 billion in military appropriations for the 2010 fiscal year. Among the bill's provisions were limitations on the use of hearsay or coerced evidence and greater defense access to witnesses and evidence. The legislation also included provisions expanding the definition of federal hate crimes to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The legislation was later passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

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China dissident Liu Xiaobo won 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

On October 8, 2010, Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo was announced as the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." Liu has been one of China's most prominent dissidents. He spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square uprising, has long challenged China's one-party rule and coauthored Charter 08, a petition calling for political reforms in the country. He is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence in China for inciting subversion. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jiang Yu denounced the decision, calling it "contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Prize." Chinese authorities censored the announcement, blocking internet searches and international broadcasts about it and even turning off phones of people who text messaged the news.

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Federal judge upheld health care reform

On October 7, 2010, a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that a provision of the health care reform law requiring all individuals to maintain health insurance or pay a penalty was constitutional. The suit, filed by conservative public interest group the Thomas More Law Center on the same day President Barack Obama signed the bill into law, argued that the mandate that all individuals carry health insurance is unconstitutional. Judge George Steeh found that Congress has the constitutional authority to require all individuals to buy health care insurance through the Commerce Clause. Steeh also found that a penalty against those who do not have health insurance would not be an unconstitutional direct tax. The ruling was upheld on appeal by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, a ruling which was later contradicted by a ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, requiring resolution by the US Supreme Court.

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French Constitutional Council approved burqa ban

On October 7, 2010, the French Constitutional Council ruled that a bill making it illegal to wear the Islamic burqa, niqab or other full face veils in public conforms with the French Constitution. Under the legislation, women who wear the veil can be required by police to show their face, and, if they refuse, they can be forced to attend citizenship classes or be charged a US$185 fine. The legislation also made it a crime to force a woman to cover her face, with a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of US$18,555. The bill was approved by the National Assembly in July 2010 and by the Senate that September.

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US announced record number of deportations in 2010

On October 6, 2010, US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced that the US government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants in 2010. About half of the more than 390,000 illegal immigrants deported allegedly had criminal records. Napolitano explained the deportation figures: "This administration has focused on enforcing our immigration laws in a smart, effective manner that prioritizes public safety and national security and holds employers accountable who knowingly and repeatedly break the law. Our approach has yielded historic results, removing more convicted criminal aliens than ever before and issuing more financial sanctions on employers who knowingly and repeatedly violate immigration laws than during the entire previous administration." According to ICE reports, there was a 70 percent increase in criminal convict deportations since 2008.

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Honduras repealed decree suspending constitutional rights

On October 6, 2009, Roberto Micheletti, the head of the Honduran interim government, convened his council of ministers to repeal an executive decree that had suspended several constitutional rights. After the decree, two media outlets were closed by the Honduran government under allegations that they were violating its terms. Micheletti said that those media outlets would have to turn to the courts for relief. Micheletti's government took power after president Manuel Zelaya was removed from power on June 28, 2009, following a judicial order asserting that he had broken Honduran law by attempting to conduct a controversial referendum on constitutional reform contrary to a Honduran Supreme Court ruling.

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NYC car bomber sentenced to life in prison

On October 5, 2010, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York sentenced Pakistani-born US citizen Faisal Shahzad to life in prison for attempting to detonate a car bomb in New York City's Time Square in May 2010. His sentencing came after Shahzad pleaded guilty to 10 counts of terrorism and weapons charges in June 2010. Prior to the attack, Shahzad was trained by a branch of the Pakistani Taliban known as Tehrik-e-Taliban, and referred to his attempted attack as an act of war against the US. Shahzad's arrest and subsequent trial helped shape debate in the US over the reading of Miranda warnings to terrorism suspects, as he waived his rights and spoke with police for nearly two weeks before meeting with counsel.

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China restricted human organ transplants from prisoners

On October 5, 2007, the Chinese Medical Association (CMA) agreed at a summit of the World Medical Association to cease the practice of harvesting organs from prisoners, except for transplant into close relatives of the donor. Prior to the agreement, China had been widely criticized in the international community for the reportedly widespread practice of harvesting organs from executed criminals and accident victims without the consent of the donors' families. China had flatly denied these allegations in the past. Despite this new CMA policy, a report from Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu in August 2009 estimated that 65 percent of organs transplanted in China were from executed prisoners.

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DOJ sued credit card companies for antitrust violations

On October 4, 2010, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the US District for the Eastern District of New York against credit card companies Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. The lawsuit challenged the companies' internal policies which prevented merchants from providing consumers incentives for using credit cards with lower merchant fees. Visa and MasterCard agreed to a settlement agreement which allowed merchants to express a preference for the types of credit payment they accept and provided consumers with information on the costs incurred by merchants through credit card usage. American Express denied any wrongdoing. The lawsuit followed President Barack Obama's signing of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act in May 2009.

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ICC, UN signed cooperation agreement

On October 4, 2004, Judge Philippe Kirsch, President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan signed an agreement governing the relationship between the two institutions. The compact provided for an exchange of representatives, afforded the ICC observer status in the UN General Assembly, allowed ICC officials to us UN travel passes, and defined the scope of cooperation by the UN in ICC judicial prosecutions.

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President Bush nominated Harriet Miers to Supreme Court

On October 3, 2005, President George Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as an Associate Justice on the US Supreme Court. Miers faced ideological criticism from conservative activist groups, frustrated questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee, and reservations from Republican lawyers during her confirmation. She ultimately withdrew her nomination, prompting President Bush to nominate Samuel Alito who currently holds the seat on the Court.

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Liberia truth commission began gathering witness statements

On October 3, 2006, Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) began documenting personal statements concerning abuses committed during the country's 14-year civil war. TRC dispatched 192 researchers to all 15 Liberian counties in the hopes of compiling a database indexing the victims, perpetrators, and kinds of atrocities. Following this research, the Commission issued a controversial report which detailed war crimes including the recruitment of child soldiers, the rape of women, and the death of more than 250,000 citizens. TRC also called for a 30-year public sanction against President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and recommended the creation of a special war crimes tribunal to oversee the prosecution of the charges.

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Nine US states sued EPA under Clean Water Act

On October 2, 2008, nine US states and the Canadian province of Manitoba sued the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), alleging that an EPA regulation allowed the discharge of polluted waters in violation of the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York and specifically challenged the agency's Water Transfer Rule, which allowed polluted water transferred from one body of water to another to be exempted from permitting requirements under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The complaint claimed that the regulation exceeded the EPA's statutory authority and was arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.

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Myanmar court rejected Suu Kyi appeal

On October 2, 2009, a Myanmar court upheld the 18-month house arrest sentence imposed on opposition party leader and pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi was convicted in August 2009 for violating state security laws by allowing American John Yettaw to stay in her home. Suu Kyi appealed her case to the Myanmar Supreme Court twice, which denied both arguments. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, spent nearly 14 years under some form of incarceration before her release in November 2010.

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US financial oversight committee convened for first meeting

On October 1, 2010, the US Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) convened for the first time and approved a number of documents related to its duties under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The FSOC, which operates within the US Department of Treasury under the direction of US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, is tasked with identifying threats to the financial stability of the US, promoting market discipline, and responding to emerging risks to the stability of the US financial system. At its inaugural meeting, the council adopted bylaws and transparency policy, and issued a request for information and study recommendations regarding the council's study of the so-called Volcker Rule. In August 2010, Geithner told the media that the FSOC and other regulatory bodies will work to forge an "international agreement" among the world's financial institutions and regulators on a set of new capitalization rules to prevent a "race to the bottom" of risk standards among investors in the global market.

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UN released report on human rights violations in DRC

On October 1, 2010, the UN released a report [PDF] on war crimes and human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The report listed 617 of the most serious violations of human rights, including violence against children, genocide and mass rape, committed between 1993 and 2003. The report examined the crimes in the context of a number of conflicts within the country, including the two Congo wars that occurred in the late 1990s. The report also devoted a chapter to the link between the crimes committed in the country and the exploitation of natural resources, particularly diamonds and copper. The report concluded with an assessment of the justice system in the DRC and proposed reforms to strengthen justice in that country, including the suggestion that the DRC pass a bill which would implement the Rome Statute in that country, giving the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over war crimes committed there.

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