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Legal news from Monday, May 11, 2009

Cambodia genocide court denies second bail request of ex-Khmer Rouge official
Ximena Marinero on May 11, 2009 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [official website] on Monday denied [press release] a second request for release on bail by former Khmer Rouge official Ieng Thirith [JURIST news archive]. Ieng was Minister of Social Action in the Democratic Kampuchea regime, and is currently under investigation for charges of crimes against humanity. In Novermber 2007, investigating judges ordered her arrest [JURIST report] and provisional detention. The order was extended for another year in November 2008. The decision on Monday also dismissed Ieng's appeal against the extension, finding that:

provisional detention still remains a necessary measure to prevent the Charged Person from exerting pressure on witnesses or destroying evidence. Furthermore, the Pre-Trial Chamber deems detention necessary in order to ensure the presence of the Charged Person during the judicial proceedings and to preserve public order.
Ieng's lawyer said that they will further pursue the issue at trial. Ieng maintains that another former Khmer Rouge official, Nuon Chea [GenocideWatch report], was responsible for the crimes for which she has been charged.

The ECCC is in the midst of the first trial of a former Khmer Rouge leader, Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch backgrounder, JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch." In late April, Kaing admitted to training prison staff to use torture [JURIST report] to obtain confessions from prisoners, after he accepted responsibility [JURIST report] for the deaths of 12,000 Cambodians in the S-21 prison camp [backgrounder]. Kaing's trial is the first of eight [JURIST report] that the ECCC hopes to hear against former members of the Khmer Rouge, which has been accused of murdering 1.7 million Cambodians during its nearly four-year reign.

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Afghanistan parliament calls for regulation of foreign forces in wake of air strikes
Jaclyn Belczyk on May 11, 2009 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga [official website], the lower house of the Afghan parliament, on Monday demanded that restrictions be placed on foreign forces to avoid further civilian casualties before recessing in protest of recent air strikes. Wolesi Jirga secretary Abdul Sattar Khawaasi said that parliament has given the government one week to come up with a plan to regulate US and other foreign troops [Reuters report]. Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] also called for an end to US air strikes [CNN report] on Friday after attacks last week reportedly left more than 140 civilians dead. US President Barack Obama's national security adviser retired Gen. James Jones told ABC Sunday that the US would not end air strikes [interview transcript].

On Saturday, the US-led coalition in Afghanistan and the Afghan government issued a joint statement admitting that civilians were killed [AFP report] in last week's attacks. No numbers were released, as the statement said it was impossible to tell how many civilians and how many Taliban [JURIST news archive] members were killed. On Sunday, the US replaced its top commander [Guardian report] in Afghanistan General David McKiernan with Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal after McKiernan had spent only 11 months on the job.

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Indigenous Sami people file suit against Sweden for violating land use rights
Jaclyn Belczyk on May 11, 2009 1:50 PM ET

[JURIST] The Swedish Sami Association (SSR) [advocacy website, in Swedish] on Monday brought a lawsuit against the Swedish government [press release, PDF, in Swedish; backgrounder, PDF, in Swedish] claiming that the state is violating the hunting rights [application summary, PDF, in Swedish] of the indigenous Sami people, also known as Lapps. The SSR filed the lawsuit in the Gallivare District Court seeking to resolve a dispute over mountainous land in northern Sweden. Swedish law gives the Sami people the right to herd reindeer, hunt, and fish in the area, but since 2007, all European Union (EU) citizens have been permitted to hunt and fish in the mountains. Chairman of the SSR Per Gustav Idivuoma said:

We have a legal uncertainty. This must be sorted out so that all concerned know what is applicable for the future. ... We think we have good chances to win such a process. It would mean that [the government] recognizes the right of the Sami hunting and fishing in the mountains.
The Sami were traditionally reindeer herders. Today there are about 20,000 Sami in northern Sweden, as well as in Russia, Norway, and Finland. In August, the Swedish government told the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that racial discrimination against the Sami continues to be a problem [report summary] in the country. In 2007, the Swedish Sami gained some control over their traditional land [Reuters report] when the Sami parliament [official website, in Swedish], previously just an advisory panel, was given authority over local reindeer herding issues.

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Iran court releases US journalist after suspending sentence
Ximena Marinero on May 11, 2009 1:04 PM ET

[JURIST] US journalist Roxana Saberi [advocacy site; JURIST news archive] was released from an Iranian prison Monday after an Iranian court of appeals on Sunday reduced her eight-year sentence for espionage to two years and then suspended the sentence. According to statements from Saberi's lawyer, the court determined that the espionage charge was not valid [RFE report] since the US is not an enemy government, but could not ignore that the nature of Saberi's actions had posed a threat to Iranian national security. Saberi had appealed her conviction for espionage [JURIST reports] in late April, and she had been on a hunger strike in protest of her imprisonment.

Saberi was originally arrested [NYT report] in March after buying a bottle of wine, as alcohol consumption is illegal under Iranian law. It was believed that the charges against Saberi would be working without Iranian press credentials, but the Iranian government charged her with espionage [JURIST report], accusing her of passing classified information to US intelligence services. Saberi had been in jail since January and her trial was held in mid-April behind closed doors. Her detention and conviction provoked much international outcry [CPJ letter], and heightened tension in US-Iranian relations [DOS report].

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DOJ to reverse Bush administration antitrust policies
Jaclyn Belczyk on May 11, 2009 12:42 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Monday that it is reversing Bush administration antitrust policies [press release] that made it difficult to act against large companies that harm the interests of smaller companies. In a speech [materials] before the Center for American Progress [advocacy website], Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Division [official website] Christine Varney said that the DOJ is withdrawing a September report [PDF text; DOJ materials] entitled "Competition and Monopoly: Single-Firm Conduct Under Section 2 of the Sherman Act," because it "raised too many hurdles to government antitrust enforcement and favored extreme caution and the development of safe harbors for certain conduct within reach of Section 2." Varney said:

Withdrawing the Section 2 report is a shift in philosophy and the clearest way to let everyone know that the Antitrust Division will be aggressively pursuing cases where monopolists try to use their dominance in the marketplace to stifle competition and harm consumers. ... The Division will return to tried and true case law and Supreme Court precedent in enforcing the antitrust laws. ... The recent developments in the marketplace should make it clear that we can no longer rely upon the marketplace alone to ensure that competition and consumers will be protected.
When the report was released in September, three of the four sitting US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website; JURIST news archive] members denounced it [JURIST report] as "a blueprint for radically weakened enforcement" of federal antitrust law. The report explored single entity violations of Section 2 of the Sherman Act [text], in which a competitor seeks or maintains monopoly power which harms consumers.

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Rights groups decry Obama military commissions revival plan
Jaclyn Belczyk on May 11, 2009 10:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Saturday harshly criticized [press release] the Obama administration's reported consideration of reviving [JURIST report] the military commissions system to try Guantanamo Bay detainees [JURIST news archives]. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called the plans "fatally flawed," saying the "military commissions are built on unconstitutional premises and designed to ensure convictions, not provide fair trials." The Policy Director for Counterterrorism and Human Rights at Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] wrote [WSJ op-ed] in Monday's Wall Street Journal, "[s]hould the president decide to abandon a campaign pledge to 'reject' the Military Commissions Act, he will be breathing life into a court system with the fewest rights for suspects of any court in the Western world." On Thursday, AI urged [press release] that, "[a]ny trials of Guantanamo detainees should be conducted before US federal civilian courts in trials that meet international standards."

On his first day in office in January, Obama directed [motion, PDF; JURIST report] military prosecutors to pursue a 120-day continuance in the military commission proceedings against five alleged 9/11 co-conspirators [DOD materials], and then ordered [JURIST report] Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to implement a halt to the proceedings [DOD press release] pending a comprehensive review of all Guantanamo detentions under the supervision of Attorney General Eric Holder. That suspension is set to expire May 20. Rights groups have long criticized military commissions [JURIST report] for admitting some evidence that is barred from federal court, including hearsay or coerced confessions. In March 2008, the president of the American Bar Association expressed grave concern over the military commissions process [JURIST report], noting that hearsay testimony and coerced confessions were admitted even when obtained through now-illegal advanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding. As a presidential candidate, Obama declared that he would "reject the Military Commissions Act" [speech text], but since assuming the presidency has not definitively ruled out the system. During a Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing [video; JURIST report] earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that military commissions are "still on the table."

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Iceland parliament to consider EU accession
Devin Montgomery on May 11, 2009 10:12 AM ET

[JURIST] Iceland Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir [official profile; personal website, in Icelandic] said Sunday that the country's parliament will consider applying [press release] to join the European Union (EU) [official website] by holding a referendum when it meets on May 15. Sigurdardottir made the announcement shortly after constituting the cabinet of the country's new Social Democratic [party website, in Icelandic] and Left Green [party website] coalition government [press release]. The two parties are split [Iceland Review report] on whether to join the EU, but Sigurdardottir said that joining the Union and adopting the Euro would help stabilize the country's economy, which has recently suffered significant declines [BBC backgrounder].

If Iceland decides to seek EU accession [criteria materials], it would become one of several countries currently doing so including Turkey, Romania, Serbia, and Croatia, though it will likely face fewer obstacles. Earlier this year, a report [text, PDF, in Turkish] by advocacy group Tesev [advocacy website] argued that Turkish property rights still fell short [JURIST report] of those required to join the EU, and the European Commission (EC) [official website] has said that Romania must do more to fight corruption [report, PDF; JURIST report] before it can join. The EC has also said that Serbia may be eligible to join the Union [JURIST report] if it takes the appropriate steps, and Croatia has sought to create special courts [proposal, DOC, in Croatian; JURIST report] targeted at organized crime in their accession efforts.

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US judge rejects delay of first military commission hearing since suspension order
Devin Montgomery on May 11, 2009 9:03 AM ET

[JURIST] Military judge Colonel James Pohl has rejected a motion to delay a military commission [JURIST news archive] hearing for Saudi Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi [DOD materials], according to a Sunday report [text] by the Miami Herald. The hearing, scheduled for May 27, would be the first to be held since US President Barack Obama suspended [motion, PDF; JURIST report] the commission system in January. It will address al-Darbi's claims that self-incriminating statements he made while being detained were elicited through torture and should be excluded from the case against him. Lawyers for al-Darbi had sought additional time to prepare for the hearing, but Pohl rejected the request, saying that had been given enough time to prepare and that the hearing was necessary in order for al-Darbi's trial to begin. It is not yet clear whether or not the Obama administration will continue the use of the military commission system [JURIST report].

Al-Darbi is the brother-in-law of Khalid al Mihdhar, one of the September 11 hijackers who crashed a jet into the Pentagon. In March 2008, the US Department of Defense confirmed [press release; JURIST report] that al-Darbi had been charged [text, PDF; JURIST report] for his alleged role in a plan to bomb a ship off the coast of Yemen or in the Strait of Hormuz. He is accused of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism under Sections 950v(b)(28) and (25) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF]. He also allegedly attended and worked at an al Qaeda terrorist training camp and traveled to various locales in Pakistan, the UAE, and Qatar to buy materials and recruit help. Al-Darbi faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, and has tried to boycott [JURIST report] his trial.

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FBI failing to maintain accurate terrorist watchlist: DOJ report
Jaclyn Belczyk on May 11, 2009 8:59 AM ET

[JURIST] The FBI [official website] has failed to maintain an accurate and effective terrorist watchlist [FBI FAQ] by failing to include known terrorism suspects and to remove records of people that have been cleared, according to a report [text, PDF] by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) [official websites]. The report, released last Wednesday, contains the results of an audit conducted in 2008, which found, "that the FBI failed to nominate many subjects in the terrorism investigations that we sampled, did not nominate many others in a timely fashion, and did not update or remove watchlist records as required." The audit also found that, "several persons with names matching the subjects who were not watchlisted or who were untimely watchlisted attempted to cross U.S. borders during the period the names were not watchlisted." The report contained 16 recommendations, which include:

establishing timeframe requirements for headquarters units to process watchlist nominations, modifications, and removals; creation of a process to modify and remove known or suspected terrorists placed on the watchlist by CJIS and Legal Attachés; and re-evaluation of the watchlist records that are not sourced to a current terrorism case.
FBI Assistant Director John Miller [official profile] responded [press release] that the FBI "remain[s] committed to improving our watchlist policy and practices to ensure the proper balance between national security protection and the need for accurate, efficient and streamlined watchlisting processes."

In July, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] said [press release] that the terrorist watchlist is too large [JURIST report], contains inaccuracies, and should include more safeguards to prevent the unnecessary targeting of passengers for additional security screenings. In March 2008, the OIG issued a report [text, PDF] saying that FBI had submitted inaccurate information to the list [JURIST report], that the information was rarely reviewed before its submission, and even if discrepancies become apparent they were often left unchanged. In response to the audit, Miller said that the agency was working with the DOJ and other partner agencies [press release] to "ensure the proper balance between national security protection and the need for accurate, efficient, and streamlined watchlist processes."

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For more legal news check the Paper Chase Archive...


Unprecedented Notice of Warrantless Wiretapping in a Closed Case
Ramzi Kassem
CUNY School of Law

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