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Legal news from Sunday, September 11, 2011

Uganda chief justice says judiciary not free
Maureen Cosgrove on September 11, 2011 1:32 PM ET

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[JURIST] Ugandan Supreme Court Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki on Friday said the Judiciary [official website] lacks independence as a result of interference by African governments. At the Southern African Chief Justices Forum in Kampala, Odoki pointed to surveys [Daily Monitor report] by the World Bank and the World Economic Forum [official websites] that rank African countries below other countries with respect to judicial independence. Odoki claims the government's refusal to enforce court decisions and recent attacks on the courts are further indicators of the government's intrusion. Odoki also suggested that inadequate allocation of resources to the judiciary undermine the judiciary's power in relation to the other branches of government. The Chief Justice ultimately called on African governments to make the Judiciary a priority in budget matters.

Judicial independence has been a long-standing issue in Uganda. In March 2007, Ugandan judges initiated a week-long general strike [JURIST report] to protest the siege of the High Court and seizure of defendants by government forces. The judicial strike came in response to a siege of the Ugandan High Court where security agents surrounded the building and arrested six supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besiyge [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] who had been charged with treason but released on bail. The agents beat the suspects and pistol-whipped their lawyer unconscious with a rifle butt, according to witnesses. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni [BBC profile] criticized the Constitutional Court ruling [JURIST reports] that halted the court-martial of Besigye on charges of possessing illegal firearms. Museveni vowed to fight the court ruling politically, even suggesting that a referendum may be used. The International Commission of Jurists [advocacy website] has since criticized [press release] the government for interfering with judicial independence by intimidating lawyers and judges with armed agents.

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Iraq PM accepts resignation of lead corruption watchdog
Maureen Cosgrove on September 11, 2011 12:27 PM ET

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[JURIST] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; JURIST news archive] on Saturday accepted the resignation [press release, in Arabic] of the country's lead corruption watchdog, Raheem Uqaili. Uqaili was the chairman of Iraq's Integrity Commission [official website, in Arabic], an independent corruption monitoring agency that investigates officials from the Defense Ministry and other government agencies. Uqaili supporters say political conflict prevented him from taking on key cases [LA Times report], while critics claim Uqaili was ineffective.

Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, the former chief of the Integrity Commission, has accused the Iraqi government of protecting corrupt employees and attempting to influence the commission [JURIST report]. He resigned from the commission in September 2007 while on official business in the United States, citing the increase in death threats against him and his family, though there have also been corruption allegations against al-Radhi [JURIST report]. In 2007, Maliki ordered that his approval must be obtained [JURIST report] before any government minister or official from the president's office be charged with corruption, according to the chair of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official website]. Despite Maliki's plans to fight corruption [JURIST report] announced in May 2006, Iraq ranked as one of the world's most corrupt nations [JURIST report] according to the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) [text; press release] prepared by Transparency International (TI) [advocacy website].

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Federal appeals court to conduct rehearing on Michigan affirmative action ban
Erin Bock on September 11, 2011 10:54 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] has agreed to a rehearing en banc [order, PDF] to determine the constitutionality of an amendment to the Michigan Constitution [text, PDF] banning affirmative action. Proposal 2 [text; JURIST news archive] bans affirmative action in public employment, public education and state contracting. The decision vacates a ruling handed down by a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit in July finding the proposal unconstitutional [JURIST report]. The panel ruled that the proposal unduly burdened minorities by abusing a political process where minorities were likely to have no redress. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette [official website] made a formal request for a rehearing [JURIST report] in July stating that the decision conflicted with prior decisions of the court.

The Sixth Circuit's ruling reversed a 2008 decision by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] to dismiss the challenge [JURIST report] with prejudice. District Court Judge David Lawson had found that Proposal 2 was "facially neutral" regarding racial discrimination and did not violate the US Constitution. Michigan voters approved [JURIST report] the constitutional amendment in November 2006, and it was initially expected to take effect in late December 2006. In December 2006, a federal judge ruled that the universities could delay implementing the proposal [JURIST report] until the they had completed the 2006-2007 admission cycle under current procedures, but that order was later stayed [opinion, PDF] by the Sixth Circuit. The US Supreme Court [official website] declined [JURIST report] to consider whether the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University could delay implementing Proposal 2 in early 2007.

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UN Secretary-General calls for creation of Libya mission
Erin Bock on September 11, 2011 10:28 AM ET

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[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] sent a letter [text, PDF] to the UN Security Council (UNSC) [official website] , which was circulated on Friday, seeking the formation of a mission to provide assistance to the new post-conflict authorities in Libya. Ban proposed the establishment of a three-month United Nations Support Mission in Libya, which would focus on "further defining the needs and wishes of Libya for United Nations support, while delivering urgent advice and assistance." Specifically, the mission would include assistance and support to national efforts regarding the restoration of public security, promotion of national reconciliation and political dialogue, restoration of public services, protection of human rights, economic recovery and coordination of support from other actors. Ban emphasized the importance of reconciliation and recovery in Libya as well as the importance of UN support stating:
In the past few weeks, we have witnessed dramatic and historic events in Libya. There can no longer be any doubt regarding the yearning of so many Libyans for fundamental change, human dignity and freedom. [The new Libyan authorities] have clearly requested the assistance of the United Nations and the international community in this process. The time has come for Libyans to begin walking the path of reconciliation and recovery. It is important that the international community be ready to support the Libyan people.
The UNSC announced [press release] on Friday that it has begun discussion regarding Ban's proposal. Ban's Special Adviser for Post-Conflict Planning in Libya, Ian Martin, visited the country for five days last week and reported to the UNSC that the country would benefit from Ban's proposal. Martin indicated in a subsequent press conference that the UNSC was supportive of the proposed mission [AP report] and would circulate a draft resolution on Monday.

The Libya conflict [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since February. On Thursday, Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile], announced that he is seeking assistance [JURIST report] from INTERPOL [official website] in order to locate and arrest former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The ICC previously issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for Gaddafi, his son and his brother-in law. Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam was allegedly captured [JURIST report] last month, though he reported to foreign media that he will continue fighting. Last month, Libyan Prime Minister Al Baghdad Ali Al-Mahmoudi requested that the UN create a "high-level commission" to investigate alleged human rights abuses [JURIST report] by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [official website]. In June, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] decided to extend a mandate to an investigative panel instructing it to continue its investigation of human rights abuses in Libya, after it published a 92-page report [JURIST reports]. The report claims Libyan authorities have committed crimes against humanity such as acts constituting murder, imprisonment and other severe deprivations of physical liberties, torture, forced disappearances and rape "as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack."

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