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Legal news from Sunday, February 3, 2008




Nepal human rights violations threatening peace: UN official
Benjamin Klein on February 3, 2008 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang [official profile] said Sunday that unchecked human rights violations in Nepal remain a barrier to achieving sustainable peace in the country. Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist rebel leader Prachanda signed a peace agreement [JURIST report] in November 2006 formally ending the decade-long Maoist guerilla insurgency against the government that left over 13,000 people dead. During a news conference [recorded video via Nepal News] from Kathmandu, Kang said:

When the High Commissioner [Louise Arbour] visited Nepal one year ago, she focused on two main issues: the need to end impunity and the need to address deep-rooted discrimination. A year later, impunity remains unchecked in Nepal and not one perpetrator of past or on-going human rights violations has been convicted as a result of a criminal investigation.
In response to the culture of impunity in Nepal [JURIST news archive], Kang issued a renewed call for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that conforms with international standards. Human Rights Watch and the International Commission for Jurists criticized [JURIST report] Nepal's draft Truth and Reconciliation Commission Bill of 2007 [DOC text] last August for its failure to meet international legal standards [press release]. PTI has more.





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Iraq bill allowing reinstatement of ex-Baath party members becomes law
Devin Montgomery on February 3, 2008 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Iraq's three-member Presidency Council said Sunday that a bill allowing most former members of Saddam Huessein's Baath party to be reinstated to public life has become law. The controversial Accountability and Justice Law [ICTJ backgrounder, PDF], passed by the Iraqi parliment earlier this month, has been publicly endorsed [JURIST reports] by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Presidency Council members President Jalal Talibani and Vice President Adel Abdul-Madhi. The third member of the council, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, however, objected [JURIST report] to the law on the grounds that it would displace new government employees that took their positions after the ouster of the dictatorial Baathist regime in 2003, and would require the dismissal of an additional 7,000 former Baathists from current security forces. Under Iraqi law, the presidency council had ten days to review and discuss the law after its passage, and because it did not explicitly and unanimously reject the bill, it becomes effective despite the disagreement. As a compromise, the Presidency Council said it would suggest amendments to the law for passage by parliament. In addition to the window for reinstatement, the law also provides for a seven-judge panel to hear appeals by former Baathists that have been dismissed. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

Iraq set up a De-Baathification Commission [official website] in 2003 with the approval of the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority [official website], and its early agenda was rooting out members of Hussein's Baath party from positions of power in the Iraqi government, prompting the forced removal [JURIST report] of approximately 30,000 Baathists from public life. The Bush administration, however, urged the Iraqi government to shift the commission from outright prohibition to "accountability and reconciliation" in the interests of countering the growing insurgency in the country. Passage of de-Baathification reform legislation was praised by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and is the first of 18 as-yet-unmet benchmarks identified by the White House last year as important steps towards stability [JURIST reports]. Iraqi Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani has previously called the bill "dangerous" and the bill's passage stalled as recently as late November 2007 [JURIST reports].






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Khmer Rouge second-in-command to request release on bail at ECCC hearing
Eric Firkel on February 3, 2008 11:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Khmer Rouge official Nuon Chea [GenocideWatch profile] will request release on bail when he appears in front of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] Monday for a pre-trial hearing relating to war crimes and crimes against humanity charges [statement, PDF], Nuon Chea's lawyers said Sunday. Nuon Chea, known as Brother Number Two in the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder], was arrested and charged [JURIST report] in September and has since been held by the ECCC. His family has expressed concern over his health and urged the tribunal to release him into their custody. Prosecutors have said that Nuon Chea's detention is necessary to prevent him from pressuring witnesses and destroying evidence. He has disputed [JURIST report] the charges against him.

The Khmer Rouge is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] between 1975 and 1979 during the communist movement led by Pol Pot [BBC profile], who died in 1998 having never been prosecuted for alleged war crimes. The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [text as amended 2005, PDF] to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials, but to date, no top officials have faced trials. The first trials are expected to begin this year. AP has more.






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Pakistan top lawyer again put under house arrest
Eric Firkel on February 3, 2008 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan [PILDAT profile] was detained Saturday at the Lahore airport after attempting to board a plane for the Sindh province [official website], where he planned to visit the grave of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], who was assassinated [JURIST report] at a campaign rally in December. Ahsan was subsequently put under house arrest and Sindh Home Minister Akhtar Zamin said Ahsan's detention was necessary to avoid any disruption to the election process, with general elections slated for Feb. 18. Ahsan said his detention was illegal and accused the national government of issuing the order.

Ahsan served as a lawyer on the defense team for ousted Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry [JURIST archive] in early 2007. His detention Saturday comes just two days after he was released from three months of house arrest. He was first detained in a security sweep [JURIST report] after Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf's November 3 declaration of emergency rule [text; JURIST report]. Before being re-arrested, Ahsan renewed his call for Musharraf's resignation [JURIST report]. The new house arrest order confines him to his home in the Punjab province for 30 days. AP has more.






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