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Legal news from Thursday, February 23, 2012




Guantanamo detainee agrees to testify for plea deal
Brandon Gatto on February 23, 2012 5:14 PM ET

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[JURIST] A Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] detainee reached a plea agreement with military prosecutors on Wednesday that included an agreement to testify against other detainees. Under the agreement, detainee Majid Khan [GlobalSecurity profile], a 31-year-old former Baltimore-area resident, will be required to testify at the trials of other detainees in exchange for a greatly reduced sentence and eventual freedom. Khan has agreed to be available to testify at military commission trials over the next four years, and officials said he would then be eligible for a transfer to Pakistan. This is the first agreement to guarantee freedom for testimony offered to a Guantanamo detainee. The military believes Khan worked with with ties to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile], one of the designers of the September 11th terrorist attacks [JURIST backgrounder].

Khan was charged with war crimes [Washington Post report], including murder, attempted murder, spying, and providing material support for terrorism. Before being transferred to Guantanamo in 2006, both Khan's father and Khan's lawyer claimed in 2007 that the high-valued detainee had been subject to "state-sanctioned" torture while being held in secret CIA prisons [JURIST reports]. Khan was denied access to civilian legal counsel [JURIST report] by a federal judge in 2006 in an issue equally as controversial [JURIST comment]. Khan was captured in Pakistan in March 2003 and held in CIA prisons until he and 13 other high-profile detainees [DNI profiles, PDF; BBC profiles], including Sheikh Mohammed, were transferred to the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.




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Italy violated human rights by transferring migrants to Libya: ECHR
Brandon Gatto on February 23, 2012 1:41 PM ET

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[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ruled [text] that Italy violated international human rights laws when a group of Somalian and Eritrean migrants traveling from Libya were intercepted by Italian authorities and returned to Libya. The court found that Italy violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF] by exposing the migrants to the risk of ill-treatment in Libya and of repatriation to Somalia or Eritrea. Italy argued that Libya was a "safe country" at the time because it complied with its international commitments protecting refugees. The migrants had not expressed a desire to apply for asylum or any other form of international protection, so Italy also argued that they had no oblgiation to provide protection. The ECHR wholly rejected the argument:
[D]uring the period in question no rule governing the protection of refugees was complied with by Libya. Any person entering the country by illegal means was deemed to be clandestine and no distinction was made between irregular migrants and asylum seekers. Consequently, those persons were systematically arrested and detained in conditions that outside visitors, such as delegations from the UNHCR, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, could only describe as inhuman. [...] Those same reports clearly show that clandestine migrants disembarked in Libya following their interception by Italy on the high seas, such as the applicants, were exposed to those risks.
The court ordered Italy to pay the 24 migrants €15000 euros each in damages. The court additionally found violations under Article 4, Protocol No. 4's prohibition of collective expulsions, as well as the right to an effective remedy under Article 13. The judgment was welcomed [press release] by the UN Refugee Agency (UNRA) [official website] and Amnesty International in Italy [official website, in Italian], who called the decision a "milestone" for human rights [press release, in Italian].

In September 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report warning of Italy's potential international human rights violations [JURIST report]. The report found that Italy often intercepts migrants traveling by boat from Libya and fails to screen migrants for potential refugee status before returning them to Libya, thereby violating the European Convention on Human Rights and the principle of non-refoulement. In May 2009, Italy's lower house of parliament passed a bill [JURIST report] increasing penalties for illegal immigration, and the government also sent 227 migrants back to Libya without asylum hearings in violation of the UN Refugee Convention [text]. In addition to criticism by the UNRA, UN human rights experts have also expressed concern [JURIST report] for Italy's treatment of detained mirgrants and asylum seekers. The issues raised by HRW's 2009 report were similarly and raised previously in a 2006 report.




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ICC expands investigation of war crimes in Ivory Coast
Rebecca DiLeonardo on February 23, 2012 1:27 PM ET

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[JURIST] International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] on Wednesday was granted permission [decision, PDF; press release] by a pretrial chamber to expand his investigation of war crimes in the Ivory Coast to incidents dating back to 2002. Ocampo began his investigation [JURIST report] in October, focusing on alleged post-election violence [JURIST news archive] beginning in 2010. Ocampo requested to expand his investigation in light of evidence that government and rebel forces committed war crimes during an attempted coup in 2002. In its decision, the chamber concluded that there was a reasonable basis for the allegations:
The Chamber has referred to events identified by the Prosecutor that are examples of crimes which appear to have been committed against civilians by pro-government and rebel forces in [Ivory Coast], following the 2002 attempted coup. The Chamber has analysed a chronological sample of these incidents, and it has decided whether they potentially amount to a crime or crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.
The court determined the post-election violence of 2010 was a part of ongoing unrest from the 2002 rebellion.

In December, former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] appeared before the Pre-Trial Chamber III of the ICC [JURIST report] for an initial hearing. During the hearing the court verified Gbagbo's identity and ensured that he was informed of the four charges against him, including murder, persecution, inhumane acts, and rape and other forms of sexual violence allegedly committed during last year's post-election violence in the Ivory Coast. Gbagbo was taken into custody [JURIST report] in November for his upcoming appearance before the court. In October, Moreno-Ocampo traveled to the Ivory Coast [JURIST report] to investigate allegations of war crimes committed during post-election violence following the November 2010 elections.




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Council of Europe criticizes Germany castration law
Jamie Reese on February 23, 2012 1:26 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Council of Europe's (COE) [official website] Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Punishment (CPT) published a report [text] Wednesday rejecting the practice of surgical castration [COE press release] as a means of treatment for sexual offenders. In Germany, surgical castration as a means for treatment must be initiated at the request of the offender, be approved by an expert commission and include a medical examination of the requesting offender. The CPT fundamentally objects to the practice, noting: it has irreversible physical effects; surgical castration is not in conformity with recognized international standards; there is no guarantee the result sought will last and, given the context, free and informed consent is questionable. Although it is only applied in a few regions and in isolated cases, the report recommends that the practice be discontinued. The report also includes investigations into the allegations of ill-treatment during custody in police establishments, examinations into conditions of detention for immigration detainees, allegations of inter-prisoner violence and prisoners who were subjected to preventative detention. In response [PDF], the German federal government states that they are consider the CPT's recommendations.

Germany and the Czech Republic are the only two European countries that allow sex offenders to choose surgical castration as a treatment option. This month, Russian lawmakers approved stricter sex offender laws [JURIST report] that allow convicted offenders to voluntarily submit to chemical castration. This voluntary procedure was first proposed [JURIST report] last July, but debated by the majority party who wanted the procedure to be mandatory. Several countries including South Korea [JURIST report], Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Norway, Sweden, Poland and some US states utilize chemical castration in some capacity.




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Virginia House passes watered-down abortion ultrasound bill
Katherine Getty on February 23, 2012 12:58 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Virginia House of Delegates [official website] passed a watered-down version of a controversial ultrasound [JURIST news archive] bill [SB 484] Wednesday, which requires women seeking an abortion have a transabdomenal ultrasound before going through with the procedure. The bill differs from the controversial one passed by the Senate earlier this month [JURIST report] which originally required women to have a transvaginal ultrasound. The controversy surrounding the bill [WP report] has grown in recent weeks and the changes to the bill came at the behest of Governor Bob McDonnell [official website] who requested the non-invasive alternative [press release] in the face of protests from media and pro-choice advocates. The bill is in a perilous place as Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel [official website], the bill's sponsor, said Thursday that she would rather strike the bill entirely than allow it to pass with the new amendments. This bill is widely seen as the next step in the process towards outlawing abortions in the state. Also Thursday, the Virginia Senate put on hold personhood legislation [JURIST report] that would define life as beginning at conception.

Virginia is not the first state to pass ultrasound legislation, and similar rules have drawn various results when challenged in the court system. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] lifted an injunction [JURIST report] on a Texas law [JURIST report] that requires women to have a sonogram before undergoing an abortion, allowing the law to be enforced. In October, a judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report], blocking part of the state's abortion law that required a physician to perform an ultrasound and describe the images to the patient. In March 2010, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a state law imposing broad restrictions on abortion, including the requirement of an ultrasound prior to the procedure, violated that state's constitution.




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UN extends Lebanon tribunal for three more years
Katherine Getty on February 23, 2012 12:39 PM ET

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[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] on Tuesday extended the mandate for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website; JURIST news archive] for the next three years. The independent tribunal was set up by the Lebanese government to try the suspected perpetrators of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and 22 other members of his entourage. The Tribunal is composed of professional judges selected internationally and includes senior members of the Lebanese judiciary. Ban's spokesperson says that this reaffirmation cements the UN's continuing support [UN News Centre report, news release] to help Lebanon find justice from the attacks. The president of the tribunal, Judge David Baragwanath, has previously promised to conclude the STL "as swiftly as fairness allows." The STL has faced great difficulty [JURIST report] trying to arrest the members of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the believed perpetrators of the attack, where the Iran-backed Shiite militia Hezbollah is the country's most powerful political force.

Earlier this month the STL announced that it would try four of the accused assassins in absentia [JURIST report], the first time this has happened since the Nuremberg Trials. Those proceedings, however, will not begin for more than four months to allow the defense time to plan. Last August the STL announced that it would investigate three additional bomb attacks [JURIST report] that may be connected to the February 2005 attack that killed Hariri. Earlier that month, the STL unsealed the indictment [JURIST report] against the four individuals accused of the assassination. Also in August the STL president made a public plea [JURIST report] for the men to turn themselves in.




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State attorneys general concerned about Google privacy policy
Rebecca DiLeonardo on February 23, 2012 12:25 PM ET

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[JURIST] The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) [official website] on Thursday sent a letter [text, PDF; press release] to Google, singed by 36 state attorneys general, expressing concerns about the company's new privacy policy [corporate website; press release]. The new policy, which is scheduled to go into effect on March 1, allows a user's information to be shared among different Google products, including YouTube, Gmail, and Google Maps. In the letter, the NAAG said they found the new policy "troubling" because it appears to invade consumer privacy without a realistic alternative:
Consumers have diverse interests and concerns, and may want the information in their Web History to be kept separate from the information they exchange via Gmail. Likewise, consumers may be comfortable with Google knowing their Search queries but not with it knowing their whereabouts, yet the new privacy policy appears to give them no choice in the matter, further invading their privacy. It rings hollow to call their ability to exit the Google products ecosystem a "choice" in an Internet economy where the clear majority of all Internet users use—and frequently rely on—at least one Google product on a regular basis.
The letter urges Google to allow consumers to opt out of the new policy, expressing particular concern for Android phone users who use Google products. The NAAG has requested a meeting with Google CEO Larry Page [NYT backgrounder] as soon as possible.

Google's new privacy policy has faced heavy criticism from advocates concerned with consumer privacy. Last week, three US representatives sent a letter [text, PDF] to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] asking it to look into [JURIST report] Google's new privacy policy. Earlier this month, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website], a consumer privacy group, filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] asking that the FTC block Google's proposed privacy policy changes. Last month, Google issued a letter [JURIST report] in response to concerns raised by members of Congress regarding consumer privacy rights as impacted by the new policy. In January, US Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) [official website] and seven other lawmakers sent a letter [text, PDF] to Google CEO Larry Page containing 11 questions regarding consumer privacy rights [JURIST report] as affected by Google's new privacy policies.




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Federal judge finds Washington emergency contraception law unconstitutional
Jamie Reese on February 23, 2012 12:22 PM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Washington [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that requiring pharmacies to sell Plan B and other emergency contraceptives violates the pharmacists' constitutional right to freedom of religion. Under Washington law [WAC § 246-869-010] pharmacies are required to deliver lawfully prescribed medications or devices and to distribute drugs and devices approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] in a timely manner. Judge Ronald Leighton wrote, "[T]he rules are facially constitutional—they do not on their face require or permit discriminatory conduct. It is in their operation that the rules force a pharmacy to choose between compliance with the delivery and stocking rules and employing a conscientious objector as a pharmacist." The state argued that the requirements were legal because they applied neutrally to all pharmacies and served a government interest. The pharmacies urged, and the court agreed, that the true goal was to suppress religious objections as evidenced by the secular exemption language in the law. This ruling did not strike down the law, and the state remains free to enforce the law [AP report] against violations by other pharmacies.

In 2007, a district court decision blocked the law [JURIST report] ruling that it violated pharmacies' and pharmacists' First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] rights. That decision was overruled [JURIST report] in 2009 by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] because the injunction was overbroad. Plan B [product website; JURIST news archive] has been the subject of considerable legislative and judicial activity since the FDA approved access to the drug in 2006. Last December, a federal judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] revived a six-year-old lawsuit [JURIST report] over the Plan B contraceptive. In March 2009, a federal judge in New York overturned an FDA policy [JURIST report] that limited the nonprescription availability of the drug to women over the age of 18. In March 2008, a federal judge in the US District Court of the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit brought by a physicians' group against the FDA seeking to overturn approval of the over-the-counter sale of Plan B. In October 2007, Illinois pharmacists considered a settlement [JURIST report] to a dispute over a state law that would have required them to dispense the Plan B pill regardless of their moral objections to the contraception.




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Philippines ex-president pleads not guilty to election fraud
Jennie Ryan on February 23, 2012 11:34 AM ET

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[JURIST] Former Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges of electoral fraud. Arroyo is accused of rigging senate elections [AP report] in favor of the candidates she supported in 2007. Arroyo was formally charged in December with corruption and election fraud during her presidency. She was arrested the day after on a warrant issued for the charges. Arroyo also faces charges filed in a second criminal complaint [JURIST report] that she approved a $329-million national broadband network deal with the Chinese company ZTE Corporation [corporate website] in return for millions of dollars in kickbacks in 2008. If Arroyo is convicted she could face life in prison.

Following Arroyo's arrest on charges of election fraud and corruption, she and her husband tried to leave the country after the Philippines Supreme Court allowed them to travel [JURIST report] despite the pending charges, but were denied transit until they received an official copy of the court order. The arrest warrant effectively overrides the court's travel permit. The former Philippines president has been under hospital arrest [JURIST report] since November 2011. She is reportedly being treated for a bone ailment. In July 2010, current Philippines President Benigno Aquino [BBC profile] signed an executive order [JURIST report] to set up a "truth commission" to investigate allegations that the outgoing administration engaged in corruption and rights violations.




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Indiana union members sue to block right-to-work legislation
Jennie Ryan on February 23, 2012 11:07 AM ET

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[JURIST] Members of the Indiana chapter of an electrical engineers union filed suit on Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana [official website] seeking to block implementation of the state's new right-to-work legislation [HB 1028 text]. The suit, filed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 [official website], argues that the law is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection [text] clause by treating public employees differently than others. The union claims that the law unfairly mandates that union members pay for representation of workers who choose to opt out of paying union fees. Union workers have gathered in Indianapolis throughout January and early February to protest against the legislation [press release] which was signed into law [NYT report] by Governor Mitch Daniels (R) [official website] on February 1.

Restrictive collective bargaining laws have been advanced in several states recently. In a public referendum in November, Ohio voters rejected [JURIST report] a bill passed in March [JURIST report] which would have impacted Ohio's 400,000 public workers by limiting their ability to strike and collectively bargain for health insurance and pensions. Ten Wisconsin unions filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in federal court in June challenging the state's new collective bargaining law. According to the plaintiffs, the Wisconsin bill discriminates among groups of public employees and eliminates basic union rights, like bargaining, organizing and associating. In July, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Idaho [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] blocking the enforcement of an Idaho anti-union law [SB 1007] that bans a union program that subsidizes employment for its members. The law, called the Fairness in Contracting Act, prohibits union programs used by construction workers unions that pool portions of union wages on a voluntary basis to subsidize union labor to enable union members to be hired at the collectively bargained salary.




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Federal judge finds Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional
Kevin Green on February 23, 2012 9:56 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] is unconstitutional. The plaintiff, Karen Golinski, filed suit [JURIST report] against the US Office of Personnel Management for refusing extend health insurance benefits to her same-sex spouse. Judge Jeffrey White ruled that statutory classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny and that the legislation was not "substantially related to an important governmental objective." As a result, White concluded that DOMA violated Golinski's right to Equal Protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment [text] to the US Constitution. The court issued a permanent injunction against the defendants ordering them not to impede Golinski's wife from enrolling in the family health insurance coverage.

The district court's ruling is the most recent development in the debate regarding the constitutionality of DOMA and its repeal. The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] voted to repeal DOMA [JURIST report] in November, marking the first time a Congressional group has voted to repeal the law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage. In a similar case this past October, a disabled Navy veteran filed a notice of appeal [JURIST report] with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims [official website] for denying her partner a share of her disability benefits under DOMA. The Department of Veterans Affairs [official website] allegedly told the veteran she could not receive benefits because her spouse was a woman. In March 2011, congressional Democrats introduced the Respect for Marriage Act [text], which was intended to repeal DOMA [JURIST report], but it has not yet passed. The Congressional action follows an announcement from US President Barack Obama last year that he would continue to fight for the repeal [JURIST report] of DOMA, and last year's announcement by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] that it will no longer defend the constitutionality [JURIST report] of Section 3 of DOMA in court cases challenging the provision.




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Supreme Court hears arguments on false claims of military honors
Julia Zebley on February 23, 2012 9:49 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in two cases on Tuesday. In United States v. Alvarez [transcript; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act (SVA) [text]. Xavier Alvarez was convicted under the SVA in 2007 after he announced at a public water district board meeting that he was a retired Marine and had received the Congressional Medal of Honor. His attorney argued that that the law criminalized, at its base, a white lie: "The Stolen Valor Act criminalizes pure speech in the form of bare falsity, a mere telling of a lie. It doesn't matter whether the lie was told in a public meeting or in a private conversation with a friend or family member. And the law punishes false claims to a military award regardless of whether harm results or even is likely to result in an individual case." The Solicitor General argued that the law was narrowly drawn to protect the substantial government interest of upholding the standard of military honors. Since the case came before the court out of a Ninth Circuit decision striking down the law, there has been a Tenth Circuit decision [JURIST reports] that upheld the law. JURIST assistant editor Kimberly Bennett analyzed the act [JURIST op-ed] and also argued that it is unconstitutional.

The court also considered Blueford v. Arkansas [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] to decide whether the Double Jeopardy [Cornell LII backgrounder] clause prevents the re-prosecution of a greater offense if a jury deadlocks on a lesser-included offense. Alex Blueford's attorney contends that jeopardy attaches to all of the jury's determinations, even if dead-locked on one. He argued that the foreperson's announcement establishes the verdict, and thus is what jeopardy attaches to. When the foreperson announced Blueford was not guilty on capital murder, it implied not guilty on all charges, even though the jury was dead-locked on first degree murder. He also argued that there was no "manifest necessity" to try on the same charges. The state of Arkansas argued that since the jury was free to re-visit the charges after dead-lock, clearly double jeopardy did not attach.




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UN accuses Syria of human rights violations
Saheli Chakrabarty on February 23, 2012 9:45 AM ET

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[JURIST] The UN-appointed Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria on Wednesday accused Syria of violating international human rights law [report, PDF] after finding that Syrian forces are engaging in torture and killings under orders from high level government officials. Military forces under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] have been shelling opposition strongholds in the city of Homs for 20 straight days and reportedly killed more than 80 people on Wednesday, including two journalists [NYT report]. The UN report, based on 369 interviews with victims, witnesses, defectors and other Syrian insiders, described some of the findings:
The commission received credible and consistent evidence identifying high- and mid-ranking members of the armed forces who ordered their subordinates to shoot at unarmed protestors, kill soldiers who refused to obey such orders, arrest persons without cause, mistreat detained persons and attack civilian neighbourhoods with indiscriminate tank and machine-gun fire. In some cases, they gave explicit orders to commit crimes, in others they used more general terms (e.g. use any force necessary) that, in the circumstances, left no room for interpretation. The commission verified that, in some locations, individual army officers ordered the indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighbourhoods in urban areas such as Hama, Al Ladhiqiyah, Dar'a and Homs.
The commission of inquiry, headed by Paulo Pinheiro, found that rebel forces led by the Free Syrian Army had also committed abductions and killings, though lesser in scale. The report is a follow-up to a November report [JURIST report], which had similar findings. An assembly of Western and Arab powers plans to challenge al-Assad [news report, Reuters] on Friday to provide humanitarian access to civilians.

The growing unrest in Syria has drawn international attention. Last week, both UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive] and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called for an end to the violence in Syria, with Pillay asking the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria [JURIST reports] to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Pillay urged an investigation of Syrian government and military officials for possible crimes against humanity. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) [official website] claimed earlier in February that the past 11 months of violence in Syria have led to the deaths of hundreds of children [JURIST report]. In January, Ban demanded [JURIST report] that the Syrian government end violence against civilians. The OHCHR reports that more than 5,000 people have died since anti-government protests began last March.




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Supreme Court rules officers entitled to qualified immunity on defective warrants
Julia Zebley on February 23, 2012 8:45 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled 6-3 [opinion, PDF] Tuesday in Messerschmidt v. Millender [JURIST report] that police officers continue to have qualified immunity if a search warrant is later found invalid. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, noted that the bar set in United States v. Leon [opinion] is a high standard, where officers cannot be reasonably expected to question a magistrate's writing of a warrant. Roberts stated that the breadth of the search, and the officers following that edict, was not sufficient to defeat qualified immunity:
The question in this case is not whether the magistrate erred in believing there was sufficient probable cause to support the scope of the warrant he issued. It is instead whether the magistrate so obviously erred that any reasonable officer would have recognized the error. The occasions on which this standard will be met may be rare, but so too are the circumstances in which it will be appropriate to impose personal liability on a lay officer in the face of judicial approval of his actions. Even if the warrant in this case were invalid, it was not so obviously lacking in probable cause that the officers can be considered "plainly incompetent" for concluding otherwise.
In dissent, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that since the original warrant was issued over a domestic dispute, it was obviously overbroad to command officers to search for guns and gang-affiliation signs, and thus the officers were on notice.

The court declined to reconsider the qualified immunity standard set in Leon and Malley v. Briggs [opinions], which created the current qualified immunity standard. The opinions held that officers are entitled to qualified immunity, and evidence obtained should not be suppressed, so long as the warrant is not "so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable." The court also did not create an exception for lawful gun owners. JURIST Contributing Editor Stephen Halbrook, counsel for the National Rifle Association [official websites], argued before the court and in commentary for JURIST [JURIST comment] that police infringed on gun ownership rights by seizing guns of all those present without verifying that the suspect was in the area. Police officers entered on a warrant that authorized search for any guns or gang-related material. The plaintiffs also argued that this violated their Fourth Amendment [text] rights and thus the warrant was invalid and they were allowed to sue for civil damages.




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