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Legal news from Friday, July 21, 2006

Israel assailed for international law breaches at UN Mideast crisis meeting
Bernard Hibbitts on July 21, 2006 9:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Israel found itself on the defensive with the United States as its most vocal ally in a Friday UN Security Council [official website] open meeting in which ambassadors from the Arab world and beyond condemned it for breaching international law in its attacks on Lebanon and, to a lesser extent, in its operations in Gaza in immediate response to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. The Council meeting on the spiraling Middle East conflict [JURIST news archive] was called in New York to hear a situation briefing from Vijay Nambiar, Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs.

In debate following the briefings, diplomats criticized both Israel and Hezbollah and a few countries such as Japan tried carefully to walk a fine line not overtly condemning any parties, but criticism of Israel was significantly more pronounced overall. Arab representatives were the most accusatory, with Lebanese ambassador Nouhad Mahamoud declaring that "hiding behind the right to self-defence," the Israelis had "revealed their twisted understanding of international law", and Palestinian Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour asserting that "war crimes and State terror are being committed by the occupying Power on a daily basis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory." European states were also critical, however, with Switzerland's Peter Mauer saying, according to a UN summary, that

respect for law was not a matter for negotiation. International humanitarian law prohibited attacks on civilians who were not directly participating in hostilities. Parties to a conflict were obliged to distinguish between civilian and military infrastructure, to respect the principle of proportionality in all military operations and to refrain from any form of collective punishment against the population. ... There was no doubt that Israel had the right to protect its territory and its population against such acts. Nevertheless, the reaction of the Israeli armed forces in Lebanon was clearly disproportionate. An entire country could not be held ransom for acts of military reprisal. The repeated air strikes against civilian targets were a serious violation of international humanitarian law, as was the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hizbollah against population centres in Israel.
Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman insisted that his country was responding to terrorism and the kidnappings of its soldiers, and that Hezbollah had to be disarmed. Taking up his theme, US UN Ambassador John Bolton agreed that
There was no moral equivalence between acts of terrorism and Israel’s exercise of its legitimate right to self-defence... Of course, the civilian deaths were a matter of great concern to his country. That was a tragedy, and he would not attempt to describe that any other way. The United States had urged the Government of Israel to exercise the greatest possible care in its use of force. But, it was a mistake to ascribe a moral equivalence to civilians who died as the direct result of malicious terrorist acts, the very purpose of which was to kill civilians, and the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths as a result of military action taken in self-defence.
Read the official UN summary of Friday's Security Council meeting. Watch recorded video of the session [part II here].

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Phalanx of UN rights officials urge respect for civilians in Mideast conflict
Joshua Pantesco on July 21, 2006 3:40 PM ET

[JURIST] Six high-level UN human rights officials Friday urged all parties in the Middle East conflict to respect and protect the rights of civilians eight days after the conflict spread to Lebanon. UN rights rapporteurs and representatives on internally displaced persons, housing, food, freedom of expression, health and education [official websites] issued a rare joint statement [text] expressing "grave concern" that military activities in Lebanon, Israel and Gaza are causing unnecessary harm to civilian populations.

From the UN's European headquarters in Geneva, the experts called on all sides

to fully respect the principle of proportionality in the conduct of hostilities and to refrain from indiscriminate attacks on civilians causing loss of life and mass displacement. We urge them to immediately agree on the cessation of hostilities in order to permit unrestricted and secure passage of all humanitarian assistance.

...In Lebanon, civilian populations have been deprived of their housing and access to critical services. The massive destruction of public infrastructure obstructs delivery of humanitarian assistance to persons in need of urgent medical assistance, food, and safe water and sanitation. The lack of sanitation increases the risk of infectious diseases. According to UN estimates, about 500,000 people have been displaced in Lebanon, many of whom must seek refuge in schools, public buildings or are stranded in open spaces.

The reported destruction of schools will detrimentally affect enjoyment of the right to education in the long term. The wounding of media professionals, destruction of media infrastructure, and restrictions on access to war zones pose a threat to the freedom of information and expression.

In Israel, large numbers have been forced into shelters, many are fleeing northern cities, and water supplies in the north have been affected.

We recall that the civilian population must be protected in all circumstances and parties to a conflict must comply with the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilian and military objectives. International human rights law and humanitarian law both recognize the need to ensure the rights of civilians to life, food, the highest attainable standard of health, housing and other fundamental human rights which remain applicable in times of armed conflict. Provisions of international law protecting persons against being displaced and during displacement, as restated in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, are of special relevance. Adequate measures should be taken as a matter of urgency to protect the civilian population and ensure non-discriminatory access to all necessary assistance and services, including proper accommodation for the displaced, in particular the most vulnerable.
Friday's joint declaration echoed other statements and warnings issued earlier this week by other concerned UN officials. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council [JURIST report] Thursday that "Both the deliberate targeting by Hezbollah of Israeli population centres with hundreds of indiscriminate weapons and Israel's disproportionate use of force and collective punishment of the Lebanese people must stop." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile; JURIST news archive] Wednesday warned that both Israelis and Hezbollah fighters could be liable for war crimes [JURIST report; statement], saying that "scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control."

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UN rights panel chair slams US conduct at ICCPR hearings
Joshua Pantesco on July 21, 2006 1:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Christine Chanet [ICJ profile], the chair of the UN Human Rights Committee [official website], criticized the United States in comments to reporters Friday, accusing the US of avoiding its duty to submit to hearings regarding US conformity to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text]. On Monday, the US told the committee [JURIST report] that the Covenant does not control US actions in the war on terror. Though the US did not change this position during the hearings, Chanet said the US submitted answers to questions on Guantanamo Bay and extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archives] at the last minute, in English, to impede the committee's mandate to examine the human rights record of the US. Chanet further noted that the committee's mandate to review the human rights record of the US has been upheld by the US Supreme Court, and that during the 1991 Gulf War, the US voted in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution clarifying that the Covenant applies to all actions taken by a government, within or without the country.

Under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signatories must appear before the Human Rights Committee regularly. Although most countries face the committee every four years or so, the US had not done so since 1995, and its most recent report to the committee [PDF text] was seven years overdue. The committee is expected to issue nonbinding recommendations to the US by the end of the month. AFP has more. DPA has additional coverage.

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Bahrain king signs protest restrictions into law
Joshua Pantesco on July 21, 2006 1:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa [BBC profile] has ratified a controversial protest law that some rights groups suggest could be inconsistent with common international rights standards. The Amendments to Law 18/1973 criminalizes unauthorized protests, prohibits foreign nationals from demonstrating, and bans demonstrators from certain public places such as hospitals, airports, and near diplomatic offices and other international organizations.

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern over the protest law [press release], noting that the amendment is the first human-rights related legislation to be considered by Bahrain [CIA backgrounder] since the country was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council [official website]. HRW suggested that the Amendment may run afoul of Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], which Bahrain has not yet ratified. ICCPR Article 21 states in full:

The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
AFP has more.

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Federal judge delays arraignment of ex-soldier charged in Mahmudiya probe
Jaime Jansen on July 21, 2006 12:57 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge presiding over the case of former US Army soldier Steven Green has granted a three-month delay in Green's arraignment on rape and murder charges [JURIST report] of an Iraqi civilian and the murder of her family in Mahmudiya [JURIST news archive]. US District Judge Thomas Russell of the Western District of Kentucky [official website] agreed Thursday to delay the arraignment at the request of prosecutors because it will be difficult to use evidence and witnesses simultaneously with military prosecutors in Iraq conducting an investigation [JURIST report] into four Army soldiers [JURIST report] also accused in connection with the Mahmudiya deaths, and one other US soldier now in Iraq who was allegedly present for the incident and has been charged with failing to report it up the chain of command.

Green pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to murder and rape charges [complaint via FindLaw] earlier in July. The US Defense Department charged [JURIST report] three Army soldiers with rape and murder and a fourth with dereliction of duty on July 9. The four will now face Article 32 hearings [Navy JAG backgrounder] to determine whether they will face court-martial. Green faces charges in federal court because he was discharged from the Army due to a personality disorder before the Mahmudiya allegations arose. AP has more.

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Tax shelter ruling could affect KPMG case
Joshua Pantesco on July 21, 2006 12:42 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the US Internal Revenue Service [official website] improperly applied 2003 Treasury Department regulations retroactively when it determined that the BLIPS tax shelter, which stands for "bond linked issue premium structure," is invalid. US District Judge John T. Ward's ruling comes in a civil lawsuit where plaintiffs are seeking refunds for IRS decisions to deny their claimed deductions stemming from BLIPS. The issue of whether the tax shelter has no economic substance or business purpose, the necessary standard for the IRS to declare a shelter invalid, remains to be decided at trial.

Ward's ruling is particularly significant in light of the criminal prosecution of 19 former KPMG executives [JURIST report], which is based in part on the alleged illegality of BLIPS. The revised indictment [PDF text] in the Manhattan criminal case accuses 17 former KPMG executives, a lawyer, and an investment advisor, of attempting to defraud the IRS through fraudulent tax shelters, filing fraudulent individual income tax returns containing the tax shelter losses, and concealing the shelters from the IRS. In August 2005, KPMG itself settled with federal prosecutors [JURIST report], avoiding an indictment by agreeing to pay a $456 million fee, accepting independent monitoring of its activities, and acknowledging their wrongdoing [KPMG press release, PDF]. As required by the settlement, KPMG admitted [IRS press release] that personnel deliberately concealed the existence of BLIPS tax structures by, "among other things, failing to register the shelters with the IRS as required by law; fraudulently concealing the shelter losses and income on tax returns; and attempting to hide the shelters using sham attorney-client privilege claims." The New York Times has more.

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African states consider granting dual citizenship to American slave descendants
Jaime Jansen on July 21, 2006 12:16 PM ET

[JURIST] African and black American leaders this week considered a proposal to grant dual citizenship to American descendants of African slaves in a bid to increase investment and interest in Africa [AllAfrica.com report]. Presidents from 12 African countries and American private sector leaders discussed the idea at a four-day summit [summit website] that concluded Friday in Abuja, Nigeria hosted by the Sullivan Foundation [foundation website]. Former US President Bill Clinton and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz also attended the event. The Sullivan Foundation is named after former US civil rights campaigner Leon Sullivan [profile].

A committee headed by California attorney Anthony Archer will consider how to award dual citizenship, but challenges of how to determine the ancestral homeland of African Americans will present a problem. The committee will consider three proposals for dual citizenship, including granting Africa-wide citizenship through the African Union [official website], granting citizenship through blocs of countries and regional organizations, and allowing individual countries to grant citizenship independently to African Americans who seek citizenship. The group will consider a more concrete proposal at its next summit in 2008. AP has more.

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Canadian Guantanamo detainee Khadr fires US lawyers
Joshua Pantesco on July 21, 2006 11:50 AM ET

[JURIST] Omar Khadr [JURIST news archive], the nineteen-year-old Canadian citizen who has been detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] for more than four years, wrote a letter to his mother last week telling her that he has fired his US lawyers, the Globe and Mail reported Friday. A US military lawyer appointed to represent Khadr, Lieutenant-Colonel Colby Vokey, said the move demonstrates Khadr's fragile state of mind and that Khadr has no reason to trust his American captors, as the government has confiscated Khadr's legal files, denied him access to a telephone, and otherwise attempted to interfere with his case preparations. One of Khadr's Canadian lawyers, Dennis Edney, has called upon the Canadian government to facilitate a trip to Guantanamo Bay so Edney can meet with Khadr for the first time after repeated denials.

Of the approximately 450 men still detained [DOD press release] at Guantanamo, Khadr is one of only 10 prisoners who have been charged. He is accused [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] of throwing a grenade while in Afghanistan that killed a US Green Beret and of planting mines to blow up US convoys. Khadr's lawyers last month requested his extradition to Canada [JURIST report] following the US Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [opinion text] where the Court held that the military commissions as initially constituted by the Bush administration lacked proper legal authorization [JURIST report]. The Globe and Mail has more.

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Indonesia editor to be tried for publishing Muhammad cartoon
Joshua Pantesco on July 21, 2006 11:40 AM ET

[JURIST] The editor of Indonesian online newspaper Rakyat Merdeka will face trial for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] on the website in February, his lawyers said Friday. Editor Teguh Santosa was arrested by Indonesian prosecutors on Wednesday night and was held for 24 hours before his release late Thursday night. He is charged with "inciting animosity and hatred" towards Islam and his lawyer said that a trial could begin within three weeks [AP report].

Santosa told the Koran Tempo newspaper on Friday that the cartoons were published to give his readers the full story on the cartoon controversy. AFP has more.

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Marine Corps rejects defense lawyer bid to visit Hamdania site of Iraqi civilian killing
Jaime Jansen on July 21, 2006 11:32 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Marine Corps has denied a request by defense lawyers representing seven Marines and a Navy corpsman accused of murdering an unarmed Iraqi man [JURIST report] in April to visit the Hamdania site where the alleged murder occurred. The lawyers requested a site visit in an effort to interview locals and view topographical details that are not accurately portrayed in photographs and may help them in their defense. The lawyers, who represent PFC John Jodka, claim that the photographs given to them by the military do not provide sufficient information to mount a defense. Marine Corps officials said the military will only grant a site visit to the defense attorneys if Article 32 [JAG backgrounder; USMJ text] proceedings, which are similar to grand jury proceedings, refer the charges to courts-martial for the eight men.

The eight men allegedly dragged an Iraqi civilian outside of his home, shot him, and then placed an AK-47 rifle and a shovel near his body to make him look like an insurgent burying a roadside bomb. US commanders in Iraq ordered the Naval Criminal Investigative Service [official website] to investigate the incident in May after local Iraqis told Marine leaders about it at a regularly scheduled May 1 meeting. After investigations began, the eight enlisted service members returned to San Diego-area Camp Pendleton, where they have remained pending the investigation and charges since May. AP has more.

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US trial lawyers association name change derided by critics
Jaime Jansen on July 21, 2006 11:03 AM ET

[JURIST] A vote this week by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) [advocacy website] at its annual meeting [materials] in Seattle to change its name to the American Association for Justice (AAJ) has drawn derision from critics of trial lawyers and the American litigation process. Incoming president Mike Eidson [law firm profile], a south Florida product liability attorney, said in an interview after the meeting that the new name "reflects what we do and not who we are", but Lisa A. Rickard, president of the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, called the move [press release] "an astounding admission of the unpopularity of trial lawyers in America." American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) [advocacy website] General Counsel Victor Schwartz similarly scoffed at the change, while expressing the hope that it might indicate "an attitude adjustment and new willingness to join us in pursuit of real justice,... [working] to end abusive litigation, stop rampant forum shopping and place reasonable limits on absurdly high damage awards."

Describing itself as the "world's largest trial bar" [ATLA website] with more than 56,000 members worldwide, ATLA has traditionally set out to "provide lawyers with the information and professional assistance needed to serve clients successfully and protect the democratic values inherent in the civil justice system." ATLA has campaigned vigorously [JURIST report] against state and federal tort reform [Wikipedia backgrounder], arguing that the criticisms of increasing tort litigation are false and help corporations escape accountability. Law.com has more. Insurance Journal has additional coverage.

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US assures fair trial for UK Enron bankers as Senate panel takes up extradition treaty
Joshua Pantesco on July 21, 2006 10:45 AM ET

[JURIST] The top legal advisor to the US Secretary of State assured the UK on Friday that the three British bankers who were extradited to the US in connection with the Enron fraud scandal [JURIST news archive] will receive a fair trial, and that the extradition treaty is fair. In the first official US response to the extradition controversy [JURIST report], Department of State legal advisor John Bellinger [official profile] told the BBC that the three defendants will be treated fairly in the US system, and that "while the procedures are different in different countries, the legal standard of evidence required for extradition is the same." Bellinger noted that the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] will hold hearings [witness list] on the treaty on Friday, which will eventually require a two-thirds majority of Senate votes to be ratified into law.

The revised UK Extradition Act [text], signed by Blair, incorporates the 2003 US-UK Extradition Treaty [text, PDF; Statewatch backgrounder] into British law, but the US has not yet ratified the instrument. Currently, the US may request that a UK citizen be extradited upon a simple showing of prima facie evidence, but the US will only extradite a US citizen to the UK if the UK shows that probable cause underlies the extradition request.

Giles Darby, David Bermingham and Gary Mulgrew, who were extradited to the US [JURIST report] last week following a three-year court battle, have pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to a total of seven counts of wire fraud [indictment, PDF] for an allegedly fraudulent sale of Enron stock. In February, the UK High Court approved the extradition [JURIST report], holding that extradition would be proper because the charges had a substantial connection to events and people in the US. BBC News has more.

3:41 PM ET - A federal judge on Friday refused to grant a defense request to allow the three bankers to return to the UK while awaiting trial. Noting that there was a flight risk, Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith also said that the three defendants should remain in the Houston area and would not be allowed to reside together to protect against what prosecutors called a "danger of collaboration." The trial is currently scheduled to begin Sept. 11. AFP has more.

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Taylor makes first war crimes court appearance at The Hague
Jaime Jansen on July 21, 2006 10:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Liberian President Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Friday made his first court appearance in The Hague since leaving Sierra Leone [JURIST report] last month. Taylor's lawyer Karim Khan told the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website], sitting at International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] facilities, that Taylor is unhappy with prison conditions at The Hague, calling conditions at the Freetown, Sierra Leone prison that formerly detained Taylor far superior to his current conditions. Prosecutor Brenda Hollis stated hopes that the trial will begin at the beginning of next year [JURIST report], but Khan countered that the trial will take at least one year to prepare given the difficulties of hosting the trial in the Netherlands.

In March the SCSL said it wanted to move Taylor's trial to The Hague [JURIST report] for security reasons, but the Netherlands said that it would only agree to host the trial on its territory if the tribunal found a country willing to imprison Taylor if he is found guilty [JURIST report] and a country that will grant him asylum if he is acquitted. Britain offered to take custody [JURIST report] of Taylor in June, after several other countries refused [JURIST report]. Taylor has been indicted [PDF text] on charges of crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, rape and the recruitment and use of child soldiers during the war in Sierra Leone. Taylor will next appear in court on September 29. Reuters has more.

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Saddam gets medical warning as hunger strike hits two-week mark
Joshua Pantesco on July 21, 2006 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Doctors have warned Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] that his now two-week-long hunger strike could have adverse health effects, according to a US military spokesman Thursday. Hussein drinks coffee and fortified water, but has refused to eat [JURIST report] since July 7. Hussein began the hunger strike in protest of trial court procedures and the killings of three defense lawyers, which the defendants believe occurred because of inadequate security provided by US forces.

On Friday, Hussein's lawyers released a 5,000 word letter [AP report; Arabic text, PDF; translation], written by Hussein at the urging of defense lawyer and former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark and addressed to the American people, that accuses the US government of misleading its citizens to gather support for the war. Saddam and his seven co-defendants face crimes against humanity charges [JURIST report] of killing, torturing and illegally detaining Dujail residents, as well as committing other inhumane acts in response to an alleged 1982 assassination attempt on Hussein. The trial currently stands adjourned [JURIST report] until July 24 in hopes that lead defense lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi and his colleagues will end their latest boycott [JURIST report] of the proceedings, based in part on the same security concerns. AP has more.

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Death of Khmer Rouge leader may call genocide trials into question
Andrew Wood on July 21, 2006 9:58 AM ET

[JURIST] Following the death of former Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] military leader Ta Mok [Trial Watch profile] Thursday, local observers say that with few top Khmer Rouge officials left to be prosecuted before the new Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal [task force website; timeline] scheduled to begin holding trials next year, the process may already be in trouble.

Former head of state Khieu Samphan and Foreign Minister Ieng Sary are in poor health and have not been indicted by the genocide tribunal, leaving only Kaing Khek Iev, aka Duch, to face charges [PDF indictment; PDF detention order] before the court. Iev ran the Toul Sleng interrogation center and prison, where he is accused of overseeing the killings of thousands of Cambodians. Last June, the former Khmer Rouge health minister Thiounn Thioeunn [DC-CAM profile] also died. VOA has more.

Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia [advocacy website] who has been compiling evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities for nearly a decade, says that Ta Mok's death will cause Cambodians to call the process into question. Ta Mok's lawyer has noted, however, that half of his confession remains on record, and massive collections of forensic evidence will also support the prosecution of those defendants who are still alive. Over the past decade, Youk Chhang and his staff have collected over 600,000 pages of prisoner confessions and documents, over 20,000 mass grave sites, 189 prisons, over 6,000 photos from the Khmer Rouge era, 200 documentary films, and over 4,000 transcribed interviews with former Khmer Rouge soldiers. Earlier this week DC-CAM's documents were transferred to the ECCC. After the documents were moved, Youk Chhang said, "It's a very special feeling now. When you told people what you do, they would say, 'you've been talking about the tribunal for six or seven years.' They didn't believe it would ever happen."

As to Ta Mok, a Cambodian human rights activist who was the only member of his family to survive after the Khmer Rouge took power when he was in his late teens said this to me today: "You are right, it is bad for the tribunal, but it is good that he is dead. He is, how do you say in English, the worst person."

Andrew Wood is an Associate Editor for JURIST working in Cambodia this summer.

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DeLay fundraising group settles FEC campaign finance case
Jaime Jansen on July 21, 2006 9:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC) [Wikipedia backgrounder], a political committee set up by former House Majority leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) [JURIST news archive], has agreed to shut down and pay a fine [press release] for improperly reporting financial activity. ARMPAC agreed [conciliation agreement, PDF] to the $115,000 penalty, imposed by the US Federal Election Commission [official website], late Wednesday after an FEC audit [complaint, PDF; case summary] of ARMPAC records revealed that ARMPAC raised and spent close to $250,000 in 2001 and 2002 without accurately dividing fundraising expenses for federal and nonfederal campaigns and without accurately reporting all outstanding debts.

Officials representing ARMPAC, which was in the process of shutting down before the FEC settlement agreement, told the FEC that they have corrected their financial reports. Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility [advocacy website] originally prompted the FEC to begin an investigation [press release] into ARMPAC last year, and said that the settlement indicated a pattern of campaign finance abuse [press release] that called for an in-depth investigation. Last September, former ARMPAC head Jim Ellis was indicted [JURIST report] with DeLay and the head of another political action committee for violating Texas election law. Reuters has more. The Houston Chronicle has local coverage.

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Virginia executes first inmate by electric chair in over two years
Jaime Jansen on July 21, 2006 8:46 AM ET

[JURIST] Virginia [JURIST news archive] executed a man Thursday night using the electric chair, the first execution [JURIST news archive] by electrocution in the country in over two years. Brandon Wayne Hedrick, convicted of the rape and murder of a 23 year old women in 1998, chose electrocution over lethal injection [Washington Times report]. Virginia allows death row inmates to choose their method of execution, and Hedrick became the fourth person to choose the electric chair over lethal injection since Virginia authorized lethal injections in 1995.

A lawyer for Hedrick suggested that Hedrick chose electrocution over lethal injection because he was concerned about the pain involved with lethal injection [JURIST news archive]. The common three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections has come under scrutiny [JURIST report] recently, with critics believing that the injection causes death row inmates excruciating pain right before they die. The inmate first receives a dose of anesthesia, then a drug to paralyze voluntary muscles, and lastly a drug to stop the inmate's heart. In some cases, the anesthesia may not be strong enough [JURIST report] and fails to make the inmate unconscious before receiving the other drugs. In June, the US Supreme Court allowed death row inmates to appeal their state's method of execution [JURIST report] after all other appeals have been exhausted, in a case where a Florida inmate is arguing that Florida's lethal injection procedures violate the Eighth Amendment. Reuters has more. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has local coverage.

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India arrests three as Mumbai train bombings probe continues
Jaime Jansen on July 21, 2006 8:01 AM ET

[JURIST] Indian authorities arrested three men Friday in connection with the July 11 Mumbai train bombings [BBC report] that killed over 180 people [Mumbai Police casualty list]. The three suspects arrested by authorities - Khaleel Aziz Sheikh, Kamal Ahmed Ansari and Mumtaz Ahmed Chowdhury - are not the same three suspects Indian authorities named [JURIST report] last week. Mumbai police, amid speculation that Kashmiri militants [BBC backgrounder] carried out the bombings, added fuel to the fire by telling the public that the three arrestees are part of a "big conspiracy," saying the Mumbai investigators have definitive proof that the three arrestees have connections to terrorist groups in Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In a speech to parliament Friday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website, English version] maintained Pakistan's innocence, assuring the Indian government that Pakistan will fully cooperate in the investigation.

L.K. Advani [party profile], leader of India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) [party website], said in a speech [text] Sunday that the bombings were "a fallout of repealing" [JURIST report] the country's Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) [backgrounder; text], set aside by the now-ruling United Progressive Alliance when it came to power in 2004. Advani said POTA had to be revived in order for India to effectively combat terrorism, an idea which the Indian prime minister has rejected. Mumbai police have detained hundreds of people [JURIST report] since last week's bombing while investigators search for links to the perpetrators of the bombings. AP has more. From London, the Times has additional coverage.

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Unprecedented Notice of Warrantless Wiretapping in a Closed Case
Ramzi Kassem
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