JURIST Supported by the University of Pittsburgh
Serious law. Primary sources. Global perspective.
Listen to Paper Chase!

Legal news from Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Former UK legal advisor testifies Iraq invasion was illegal
Sarah Miley on January 26, 2010 3:51 PM ET

[JURIST] Former chief legal adviser to the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [official website] Sir Michael Wood [UN profile, PDF] told the Iraq Inquiry [official website] in a public hearing [video] on Tuesday that he had advised the Foreign Ministry that the 2003 Iraq invasion was illegal. Woods testified that the invasion was "contrary to international law" because it was never authorized by the UN Security Council [official website]. Woods said that then-Foreign Ministry secretary Jack Straw [parliamentary profile] rejected his advice that there was no legal basis for the invasion and that it was not supported by UN resolutions, including Resolution 1441 [text]. During the inquiry, Woods stated [transcript, PDF]:

He took the view that I was being very dogmatic and that international law was pretty vague and that he wasn't used to people taking such a firm position. When he had been at the Home Office ... he had often been advised things were unlawful and he had gone ahead anyway and won in the courts.

Last week, Wood released a written statement [text, PDF] outlining the legal advice he had given to the foreign ministry. In his statement, Woods held that self defense requires an imminent attack, and Iraq's regime change alone was not considered an actual or imminent threat. He went on to state that taking preemptive steps beyond self defense "had no basis in international law."

Earlier this month, the Iraq Inquiry released [JURIST report] a 2002 letter [text, PDF] from former UK attorney general Peter Goldsmith [professional profile] to former secretary of defense Geoffrey Hoon [personal profile] in which Goldsmith warned the Cabinet that the Iraq invasion was not supported by international law. The letter stated that Goldsmith was having "considerable difficulty" supporting a legal foundation for the Iraq invasion. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair [official profile; JURIST news archive] is also facing criticism after the Inquiry released a letter from Goldsmith written to Blair in July 2002, warning [JURIST report] Blair that the planned invasion of Iraq could be illegal. The letter laid out the reasons that Goldsmith believed the Iraq invasion might be illegal, including that an invasion could not be based on "regime change" alone. The existence of this letter will increase the difficulty for Blair to use a good-faith defense against charges that he knowingly led the country into an illegal invasion. Blair is scheduled to testify before the Inquiry this week.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Israel legislature adopts measure to pardon 400 protesters of 2005 Gaza disengagement
Sarah Paulsworth on January 26, 2010 2:46 PM ET

[JURIST] Israel's Knesset [official website, in Hebrew] approved legislation on Monday to grant immunity to approximately 400 protesters involved in violent protests in connection with the 2005 removal [JURIST report] of settlers in the Gaza Strip [JURIST news archive]. The amnesty measure, which passed by a vote of 51-9 [Haaretz report], does not extend immunity to people who committed acts that endangered human life, but rather mainly affects approximately 400 teenagers who were charged with committing minor criminal infractions. This is the third general amnesty measure issued by Israel. The first was issued was in 1949, after the War of Independence, and the second was issued in 1967, after the Six-Day War.

The tenuous relations between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza have been under international scrutiny lately in light of more recent conflicts. Earlier this month, Israeli military officers cancelled a planned trip [JURIST report] to the UK for fear they would be arrested on charges of war crimes for their involvement in last winter's Operation Cast Lead [Global Security Backgrounder] in the Gaza Strip. In November, the UN adopted [JURIST report] a resolution requiring independent investigations into Operation Cast Lead. According to the UN report [text], both Israel and Palestine committed war crimes [JURIST report].

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France parliamentary commission recommends partial burqa ban
Megan McKee on January 26, 2010 1:31 PM ET

[JURIST] The French parliamentary commission charged with investigating whether to enact laws banning the wearing of burqas [JURIST news archive] or other "full veils" released its report [text, PDF; in French] Tuesday calling for a partial ban. The panel urged a ban [Al Jazeera report] that would apply in public facilities, including hospitals, schools, and public transportation, and to any individual attempting to receive public services. The panel also recommended that permanent residency and citizenship be denied to anyone displaying their adherence to "radical religious practices." The commission did not recommend a total ban on the burqa because not all members agreed that such a move would be constitutional. The potential ban has received widespread support [CNN report] throughout France. Any legislation will probably not be voted on until after the French regional elections in March.

The commission began its hearings in July after being established [JURIST report] a month earlier to address the issue. The panel has heard testimony from numerous experts, including anthropologist Dounia Bouzar [TIME profile], who suggested that a broad ban on covering one's face to conceal identity is preferable to a law that singles out Muslims. Bouzar said that the recent popularity of the burqa amongst French Muslims was due to religious "gurus" who have misconstrued the teachings of Islam. The commission also heard from University of Nice [academic website, in French] philosopher Abdennour Bidar, who urged the commission to find a way to prevent the spread of the practice, though he was unsure whether this goal is best accomplished through legislation.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

California Supreme Court authorizes DNA warrants for unknown suspects
Sarah Miley on January 26, 2010 1:06 PM ET

[JURIST]The Supreme Court of California [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-2 Monday to authorize the use of "John Doe" arrest warrants, which replace an unknown suspect's name with his or her DNA profile as the unique identifier. Prosecutors have increasingly been using these warrants as a means of satisfying the statute of limitations in criminal cases. California law, which echoes the language of the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment [text], holds that prosecution for an offense commences when an arrest warrant is issued and "names or describes the defendant with the same degree of particularity required for [a] complaint." Focusing on the point of particularity, the court held that DNA profiles describe the suspect sufficiently for identification:

A warrant or complaint is an accusation against a person, and not against a name, and [w]hen the name is unknown, the person may be identified with the best description available. ... A genetic code describes a person with far greater precision than a physical description or a name. ... For purposes of the Fourth Amendment, we conclude that the arrest warrant in question, which described the defendant by his 13-loci DNA profile and included an explanation that the profile had a random match probability such that there was essentially no chance of its being duplicated in the human population except in the case of genetically identical sibling, complied with the mandate of our federal Constitution that the person seized be described with particularity. ... We likewise conclude the arrest warrant in question described the defendant with sufficient particularity to avoid a violation of the warrant particularity requirement of our state Constitution.

Dissenting judge Carlos Moreno questioned the authenticity of John Doe warrants, claiming that the document was "a clever artifice intended solely to satisfy the statute of limitations until the identity of the perpetrator could be discovered." Moreno stated that the warrant did not become effective until a fictitious name is replaced with the suspect's real name, and at that point the statute of limitations has expired.

The court's ruling upheld the conviction of Paul Robinson on sexual assault charges. Evidence linking Robinson to the crime was discovered when his DNA was mistakenly collected and entered into the state's DNA database, which matched his profile with that of the suspect profile in the John Doe warrant. DNA databases are a controversial issue. In May, a federal court upheld the constitutionality [JURIST report] of mandatory DNA collection for all persons arrested or detained under federal authority. Judge Gregory Hollows of the US District Court for the Eastern District of California [official website] found that although the collection of DNA from those arrested on federal felony, sexual abuse, or violent crime charges does constitute a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, a person arrested based on probable cause "has a diminished expectation of privacy in his own identity." Federal agencies began collecting DNA samples [JURIST report] in 2008, although they had been authorized to do so since 2006.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Iraq Interior Ministry targeted in car bombing
Sarah Paulsworth on January 26, 2010 12:15 PM ET

[JURIST] A suicide bomber detonated a car bomb outside of the Forsenics Lab of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior's Criminal Investigation Department on Tuesday, killing 21 people and injuring at least 80 others. The building collapsed [Al Jazeera report] shortly after the attack, which comes one day after a wave of attacks [AP report] against several Baghdad hotels frequented by westerners. Some have suggested that the attacks might be in retaliation for Monday's execution [JURIST report] of Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known as "Chemical Ali." Tuesday's bombing has also aroused concerns about Iraq's ability to ensure citizens' safety in the run-up to the general election scheduled for next month. Iraq's election legislation was just amended [JURIST report] in December, causing the election to be pushed back [Reuters report] from January 31 to February 27.

This is not the first time Iraqi ministries have been targeted by suicide bombers. Earlier this month, an Iraqi court sentenced 11 men to death for the August 19 bombing of the foreign and finance ministries [BBC report] in Baghdad that left close to 100 dead. Iraq is also seeking an investigation into the twin suicide bombings [JURIST report] in Baghdad in October that killed at least 132 people. The bombings targeted the ministry of justice and the headquarters of the local provincial government ahead of an attempt by the Iraqi parliament [official website, in Arabic] to resolve a political stalemate to permit changes to the country's election law. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari [official profile] renewed calls [JURIST report] in October for a formal UN inquiry to investigate those responsible for the bombings. Zebari asked the UN General Assembly and the Security Council [official websites] to appoint a special envoy to probe possible sources that are targeting the country's stability.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China court sentences 4 more to death for Xinjiang riot killings
Ann Riley on January 26, 2010 11:21 AM ET

[JURIST] A Chinese court Tuesday sentenced four more people to death in connection with the July Xinjiang riots [JURIST news archive]. The Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi sentenced eight others to life in prison and one to the death penalty with a two-year reprieve, which is usually commuted to life in prison. To date, at least 26 people have received death sentences for their roles in the riots. In November, the Chinese government carried out the executions [JURIST report] of nine others convicted in connection with the riots for murder, assault, arson, and robbery, after a review by the Supreme People's Court [official website, in Chinese] upheld their sentences.

The actions of the Chinese government in the aftermath of the riots have been heavily criticized [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. HRW has stated that the trials of the suspected rioters have been marred by infringements on due process and political considerations. Additionally, HRW reported [JURIST report] that more than 40 Uighurs had disappeared while in the custody of Chinese authorities after large-scale sweeps by police. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state media has reported [Xinhua report] that most of the deaths were due to protesters. The Chinese government has admitted that police were responsible for 12 of the deaths [JURIST report]. The Muslim Uighur population is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice and says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs. Violence broke out July 5, after Uighurs attacked Han Chinese during protests ignited by an attack at a factory in southern China that left two Uighurs dead.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US government bans texting for commercial drivers
Ann Riley on January 26, 2010 10:32 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Transportation (DOT) [official website] announced Tuesday a federal ban on texting while driving [press release] for commercial truck and bus drivers. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood [official profile] said [remarks] that the prohibition will take effect immediately. Drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750. The regulation, proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) [official website] applies to inter-state truck drivers as well as commercial bus or van drivers who carry more than eight passengers. FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro [official profile] said:

Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab. ... We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit.

The regulation will be publicly posted in the Federal Register on Thursday and appear in print on Friday.

The DOT sponsored a summit on distracted driving [Federal Register notice; official website] in September to assess the distractions caused by devices and address issues to reduce accidents on the roadways. The federal ban for commercial drivers comes weeks after Illinois, Oregon, and New Hampshire joined the nearly 20 states and the federal government [JURIST report] to prohibit texting while driving [JURIST news archive]. In October, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order [JURIST report] making it illegal for federal employees or government contractors to use text messaging while driving. In October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [official website] released the results of a study [text, PDF] that reported 5,800 deaths and nearly 600,000 injuries in traffic accidents in 2008 where driver distraction was indicated on the police report.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia court grants child custody to HIV-positive woman
Andrea Bottorff on January 26, 2010 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] A Russian court on Monday awarded an HIV-positive woman custody of her younger brother. Svetlana Izambayeva sought custody rights [RIA Novosti report] in February after her mother's death left the boy orphaned, but was denied by a city court because of her HIV status. On appeal, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tatarstan [official website] overruled the lower court decision. Human rights groups following the case had called the lower court decision unfair and alleged widespread discrimination [AFP report] against people with HIV in Russia.

Monday's court decision could set an important precedent in Russia. As many HIV-positive Russians claim to experience discrimination from people who do not understand HIV/AIDS, the government and other groups continue to make an effort to raise awareness and educate the public. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) [official website], there are more than 900,000 people living with HIV [UNAIDS fact sheet, PDF] in Russia. Efforts to alleviate discrimination also continue in other countries. Earlier this month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [official website] removed HIV from its list of communicable diseases of public significance, ending a 22-year-old policy [JURIST report] prohibiting people with HIV or AIDS from entering the country. In 2008, an Indian court awarded custody [IANS report] to an HIV-positive woman after her in-laws refused to turn over the child.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Pennsylvania prosecutor will not retry juveniles associated with sentencing scandal
Hillary Stemple on January 26, 2010 8:27 AM ET

[JURIST] Luzerne County District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carroll [official website] agreed on Monday to drop efforts to retry 46 juveniles whose original convictions were overturned [JURIST report] because they had been issued by a judge indicted on federal corruption charges for an alleged kickback scheme. In October, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website] overturned about 6,500 convictions handed down by former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website] president judge Mark Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, but gave prosecutors permission to seek retrial of more than 100 youths who were still under court supervision. Ciavarella, along with former president judge Michael Conahan, has been accused of accepting more than $2.6 million in kickbacks for sentencing teenagers to two private juvenile detention facilities in which they had a financial interest. The decision ends all efforts at retrying any of the convicted juveniles, who will now have their juvenile records cleared. The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center [advocacy website] issued a statement [press release] applauding the decision, indicating that "justice has finally been attained" for the juveniles.

Ciavarella and Conahan are awaiting trial after being indicted in September, following a withdrawal of the guilty pleas [JURIST reports] they entered in February. The plea withdrawal came after Judge Edwin Kosik of the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] rejected their plea agreements, finding that the men did not accept responsibility and that the prison sentences were too lenient [NYT report; JURIST op-ed]. This prompted the two former judges to file a motion for their reinstatement. Kosik refused to reinstate the plea agreements, causing the former judges to withdraw their pleas and clearing the way for a trial. Robert Powell, the owner of PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care juvenile facilities has pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks to both Ciavarella and Conahan.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

DOJ approves Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger after settlement
Ximena Marinero on January 26, 2010 7:56 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Canadian Competition Bureau [official websites] reached an agreement on Monday to allow the merger [press release] between Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc. and Live Nation, Inc. [corporate websites]. The two companies agreed to the 10-year settlement terms set by the DOJ and the Competition Bureau, which had determined [press release] after reviewing the original merger terms that the move "raised serious economic concerns" and "would deter other companies from entering the market to compete against the merged" corporation. According to the DOJ, the settlement [press release]:

will require Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. to license its ticketing software, divest ticketing assets and subject itself to anti-retaliation provisions in order to proceed with its proposed merger with Live Nation Inc. ... [to] protect competition for primary ticketing, which will in turn maintain incentives for innovation and discounting.

The settlement will enable Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and another suitable buyer, likely Comcast-Spectacor [corporate websites], to compete with the merged corporation.

The Obama administration has pledged to increase reviews of proposed mergers. In September, the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission [official website] announced [press release] that they are considering revisions to the Horizontal Mergers Guidelines. In May, the DOJ announced [JURIST report] that it would reverse Bush administration antitrust policies [press release] that made it difficult to act against large companies that harm the interests of smaller companies. In September 2008, three of the four sitting FTC members denounced [JURIST report] a report [PDF text; DOJ materials] released by the DOJ as "a blueprint for radically weakened enforcement" of federal antitrust law.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Three former Bosnian Serb police indicted for Srebrenica massacre
Ximena Marinero on January 26, 2010 6:33 AM ET

[JURIST] The Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) war crimes court [official website] confirmed [press release] on Monday that three former Bosnian Serb policemen have been indicted on charges of genocide for their alleged roles in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archives]. Dusko Jevic served as Deputy Commander of the Special Police Brigade, while Mendeljev Duric and Goran Markovic served as Jahorina Training Center Squad Commanding Officers. According to the court, the three former policemen:

commanded their units, acting individually and in concert with other participants, planned, ordered, incited and took part in the realization of the systemic and joint criminal act. The accused allegedly during the period from 10 July until 19 July 1995, as co-perpetrators, inflicted severe bodily and mental injuries to a group of Bosniaks, committed killings of male members of the group of Bosniaks and forcefully transferred women, children and elderly persons from the UN protected zone Srebrenica in order to completely exterminate national, ethnic and religious group of Bosniaks.

The three men were arrested [JURIST report] in late 2009.

Last week, the US extradited [Reuters report] to BiH Bosnian Serb Nedjo Ikonic, a former commander of a special police brigade, who will also be tried by the BiH war crimes court for his role in the Srebrenica massacre. Earlier this month, police in BiH arrested [JURIST report] Ratko Dronjak and Dragan Rodic, two former Bosnian Serb detention camp guards who were allegedly responsible for the death of about 50 civilians and Bosnian soldiers during the Bosnian civil war. The BiH war crimes court was set up in the 2005 to relieve the caseload of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], and is authorized to try lower-level war crime suspects. The court delivered its first sentences [JURIST report] against war crimes suspects from Yugoslavia's violent ethnic conflicts of the 1990s in July 2008, convicting seven of genocide for their involvement in killings committed at the Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] prison camp. The ICTY retains jurisdiction over high-level war crimes allegations, such as those against Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] and General Ratko Mladic [ICTY materials].

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

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


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

Get JURIST legal news delivered daily to your e-mail!


Add Paper Chase legal news to your RSS reader or personalized portal:
  • Add to Google
  • Add to My Yahoo!
  • Subscribe with Bloglines
  • Add to My AOL


Subscribe to Paper Chase by e-mail. JURIST offers a free once-a-day digest [sample]. Enter your e-mail address below. After subscribing and being returned to this page, please check your e-mail for a confirmation message.

R|mail e-mails individual Paper Chase posts through the day. Enter your e-mail address below. After subscribing and being returned to this page, please check your e-mail for a confirmation message.


Join top US law schools, federal appeals courts, law firms and legal organizations by publishing Paper Chase legal news on your public website or intranet.

JURIST offers a news ticker and preformatted headline boxes updated in real time. Get the code.

Feedroll provides free Paper Chase news boxes with headlines or digests precisely tailored to your website's look and feel, with content updated every 15 minutes. Customize and get the code.


Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible, ad-free format.


Paper Chase welcomes comments, tips and URLs from readers. E-mail us at JURIST@jurist.org