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Legal news from Friday, December 3, 2010

ICC prosecutor: Kenya threats will not stop election violence prosecutions
Sarah Paulsworth on December 3, 2010 4:28 PM ET

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[JURIST] Threats against witnesses will not prevent the prosecution of six individuals responsible for Kenya's 2007 post-election violence [JURIST news archive], International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Friday. According to the statement, the prosecutor will obtain arrest warrants for the individuals behind these threats if they persist. Within the next two weeks, Moreno-Ocampo plans to present two cases against the six individuals involved in the 2007 post-election violence. These six people allegedly "bear the greatest responsibility" [JURIST report] for the post-election violence. There has been much speculation about who the six people will be, but it is anticipated [VOA report] that they will be high-ranking officials in Kenya and influential businessmen.

Last month, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) [advocacy website], which implicated former Cabinet minster William Ruto of interfering with the ICC investigation, denied accusations that it had bribed witnesses [JURIST report]. Two witnesses, Ken Braziz Wekesa and William Kepkemboi Rono, claimed they were bribed by the KNCHR [Daily Nation report], a government-funded human rights group, to testify to the ICC against Ruto, the former higher education minister. Moreno-Campo said that the court will not use testimony [JURIST report] from three Kenyan witnesses who claim they were bribed to provide false evidence against a high-ranking government official. In September, Kenyan businessman Joseph Gathungu filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality [JURIST report] of the ICC investigation into the violence following the 2007 Kenyan presidential election. The suit, which was filed in the High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] in Mombasa, argues that the ICC investigation is illegal under the constitution adopted last month [JURIST report]. Violence following the 2007 Kenyan presidential election [JURIST report] left at least 1,000 people dead and 500,000 displaced after protests erupted from allegations that President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] committed voter fraud.

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Nigeria filing bribery charges against Cheney in connection with Halliburton contract
Sarah Paulsworth on December 3, 2010 2:46 PM ET

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[JURIST] Nigerian prosecutors announced Thursday that they are instituting bribery charges against former US vice president Dick Cheney [BBC profile] in connection in with a contract that Halliburton [corporate website; JURIST news archive] subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) [corporate website] obtained to build a natural gas project in the Niger Delta area. Bribes amounting to USD $180 million were allegedly given to Nigerian government officials so that KBR could obtain the $6 billion construction contract. Cheney served as Halliburton's chief executive officer from 1995 through August 2000 [CBS report], while the bribery is alleged to have occurred from 1995 to 2005 [AFP report]. According to Godwin Obla, prosecuting attorney for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, indictments will be issued within three days [WSJ report]. KBR spilt from Halliburton in 2007. In addition to Halliburton, indictments will also be issued to officials from four other foreign companies. Last year, Halliburton and KBR agreed to paid a $579 million fine [Bloomberg report] to resolve US criminal and regulatory violations stemming from the Bonny Island contract and bribery.

Halliburton and its subsidiaries and subcontractors have been implicated in a number of law violations. In July 2007, former Eagle Global Logistics (EGL) executive Kevin Andre Smoot pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to making a false statement and violating the Anti-Kickback Act. In 2006 EGL, a Houston-based company hired by KBR to ship military cargo to Iraq, paid the government $4 million [press release; JURIST report] to settle potential claims under the False Claims Act [text] that it inflated invoices for Iraq military cargo shipments. EGL was accused of charging a "war risk surcharge" on military shipments from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Iraq between November 2003 and July 2004. In November 2006, KBR settled fraud allegations [DOJ press release; JURIST report] under the False Claims Act and agreed to pay the US $8 million for allegedly overcharging the Army for logistical support it provided between 1999 and 2000. The DOJ alleged that KBR double-billed the military and delivered non-conforming goods to be used for the construction of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. According to a report issued in October 2006, KBR violated [JURIST report] the US Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) [official website] directive on classifying proprietary data by claiming protection for information normally in the public sphere.

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Guinea high court declares Conde winner of presidential election
Megan McKee on December 3, 2010 10:29 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Guinea on Friday declared Alpha Conde the winner of November's presidential run-off election, validating the provisional results of the electoral commission and throwing out claims of electoral fraud. In light of escalating post-election violence, the Guinean government declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] last month, just three days after Conde was provisionally declared the winner by the electoral commission. The confirmation of the election results [Reuters report] by the Supreme Court was to bring the state of emergency to an end. Cellou Dalein Diallo, Conde's presidential rival, also conceded defeat on Friday.

In November, the deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement [text, PDF] lamenting the killing of seven people [JURIST report] in a post-election violence in Guinea. Bensouda urged security forces to refrain from using excessive force against civilians. The statement asserted that the ICC would evaluate all reported acts of violence resulting from the crackdown. November's election ended two years of military rule under a transitional government formed by military captain Moussa Dadis Camara [BBC profile], who staged a coup in the wake of the death of former president Lansana Conte [Guardian profile], the nation's ruler for 24 years. In September, two Guinean election officials were convicted of election fraud [JURIST report] and sentenced to a year in jail in connection with irregularities that arose in the June presidential primary election, one incident in a string of controversies responsible for multiple delays of the runoff, which was initially scheduled for July [Reuters report].

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New Mexico court rules same-sex partner cannot seek child custody
Megan McKee on December 3, 2010 9:48 AM ET

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[JURIST] The New Mexico Court of Appeals [official site] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that the same-sex partner of an adoptive mother has no standing to seek custody of the couple's child as a non-parent, but may request visitation. The court held that New Mexico's current child custody law provides no legal right for a non-parent to assert custody over a child and applies only to biological and adoptive parents. Accordingly, others, such as the unmarried partner of a parent, cannot seek custody absent a finding that the legal parent is unfit. In the majority opinion, Judge James Wechsler said "[i]t is the Legislature's responsibility to expand the requirements for standing if it wishes to do so." This holding breaks with previous decisions [AP report] in New Mexico that have favored recognizing psychological parenthood relationships.

The custody dispute involved former couple Bani Chatterjee and Taya King. In 2000, the couple adopted a one-year-old girl from Russia but, unsure how Russian adoption agencies would react to a same-sex couple, only King legally adopted the child. King and Chatterjee separated in 2008. Contending she shared in raising the couple's child for nine years and shared a parent-child relationship with King's daughter, Chatterjee filed suit in a state district court asking a judge to declare her a parent and decide custody and visitation. The judge, however, dismissed the case. Other jurisdictions have struggled with similar issues. Last year, a New York state appeals court ruled that a same-sex partner lacks standing to assert parental rights [JURIST report] over the biological child of her partner unless she has adopted the child.

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ICC prosecutor urges calm following Ivory Coast election
Megan McKee on December 3, 2010 8:08 AM ET

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[JURIST] Deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Fatou Bensouda [official profile] on Thursday urged those in the Ivory Coast [JURIST news archive] to refrain from further violence [statement, PDF] after unrest following presidential elections. In the first presidential elections in a decade, presidential challenger Alassane Ouattara was named the victor [Reuters report], but incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] has called the results fraudulent, and the results have now been invalidated by the Constitutional Council. In 2003, the Ivory Coast accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC for crimes committed on its territory. Accordingly, Bensouda stated:
I encourage the political leaders to call on their supporters and fellow citizens to show restraint and avoid unrest. I invite the Ivorian authorities to investigate criminal incidents that have already occurred and to do everything possible to deter future ones. All reported acts of violence will be closely scrutinized by the Office.
There have been reports of violence in parts of the west and north, and the country has closed its borders and suspended foreign media.

In February, Gbagbo dissolved [JURIST report] the country's parliament and electoral commission based on allegations of voter fraud in the long delayed presidential elections. On disbanding the government, Gbagbo charged Prime Minister Guillaume Soro [BBC profile] with creation of new government and new election format. Gbagbo had accused Beugre Mambe, the head of the independent electoral commission, of fraud by attempting to register more than 400,000 whom Gbagbo considers to be foreigners. Opposition parties such as the Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI) [party website, in French] and Republican Gathering Party (RDR) [party website, in French] said that most of those voters are ethnic groups in the north of the country, who would likely have voted against Gbagbo. Gbagbo was elected president in 2000 to serve a five-year term, but he has managed to stay in office through delaying six successive elections.

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