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Legal news from Friday, February 24, 2012




US immigration judge rules former El Salvador general may be deported
Jaimie Cremeans on February 24, 2012 3:14 PM ET

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[JURIST] A federal immigration judge in Florida decided Thursday that former El Salvador General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova can be deported for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed while in El Salvador. Judge James Grim found [NYTimes report] that Vides assisted in both the killing of four American women in 1980 and the torture of two Salvadorans during El Salvador's 12-year civil war [PBS backgrounder]. Although this was not an official order for Vides' deportation, it is a confirmation that the government has the ability to deport him based on charges brought against him by the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit [official website] of the US Department of Homeland Security [official website].

The Obama administration charged Vides [JURIST report] in April with human rights crimes and sought to deport him. He had been living in Florida since the conclusion of his term as defense minister in 1988. In 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a $55 million verdict [JURIST report] against him and another former Salvadoran general, Jose Guillermo Garcia, in a civil suit for torture and human rights violations. The verdict had previously been thrown out for failure to file within the 10-year statute of limitations but was reinstated because of "extraordinary circumstances." In 2000, however, the US lost in a jury trial [NYTimes report] when attempting to prosecute Vides and Garcia for the killing of the four American women in 1980. After that case, one juror explained that they did not believe the generals were directly responsible for the killings or that they could have done anything to stop them.




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Accused war criminal calls Yugoslavia tribunal 'biased'
Matthew Pomy on February 24, 2012 2:14 PM ET

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[JURIST] Former Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, Ratko Mladic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], accused the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of being "biased" against Serbs and a "puppet" of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [official websites]. Mladic faces charges [case background] of genocide and crimes against humanity, including murder, political persecution, forcible transfer and deportations, cruel treatment, and the taking of peacekeepers as hostages committed by Bosnian Serb forces under his command during the Bosnian civil war, which saw more than 100,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands more displaced. Mladic continues to deny all 11 chargers. During the 90-minute hearing [AP report], Mladic repeatedly attacked NATO for its involvement in foreign affairs and continually disrupted the hearing until Judge Alphons Orie [ICTY profile] cut off his microphone.

This is the latest controversy in the case against Mladic [JURIST news archive]. Earlier this month, the ICTY further delayed [JURIST report] the beginning of the trial until May 14. In December of last year, a three-judge panel for the ICTY accepted a request brought by prosecutors to reduce the number of crimes [JURIST report] they intend to prove against Mladic from 196 to 106. In October, the ICTY prosecutor refused to seek further appeal [JURIST report] of the tribunal's refusal to split Mladic's trial into separate actions: one for his conduct during the Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive], where approximately 8,000 people were killed, and one for all of his other charges during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive]. Mladic made his first appearance [JURIST report] at the ICTY in June, contesting the charges while simultaneously asking for more time to review them, which he was granted. Before that, he had lost his final appeal [JURIST report] in Serbia to avoid extradition and was transported to The Hague.




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Somalia ex-PM will not contest war crimes claims in US court
Jaimie Cremeans on February 24, 2012 2:14 PM ET

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[JURIST] Former Somali prime minister Mohamed Ali Samantar on Thursday accepted legal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website]. The civil suit [case summary] was brought by the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) [advocacy website] in 2004 against Samantar, who had been living in Washington, DC, for more than 15 years, on behalf of five Somalis under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 [28 USC § 1350 text]. The plaintiff Somalis had been granted asylum in the US after being imprisoned and tortured while Samantar was in office under Dictator Siad Barre. Samantar said he will not contest his legal responsibility but made clear that by doing this he is not admitting guilt. The CJA said this is the first time [CJA press release] anyone will be held legally responsible for the events that occurred during Barre's regime.

Samantar appealed his case multiple times, claiming immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) [28 US Chapter 97 text] and other common law defenses. Last year, the district court ruled that no immunity privileges under any of theses laws applied. The case made it to the US Supreme Court [official website] in 2010, which decided that the FSIA did not extend immunities to foreign leaders in civil cases. This ruling overturned the district court's 2007 decision to dismiss the case on grounds that the FSIA granted Samantar immunity.




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Ivory Coast post-election violence investigation flawed: HRW
Jerry Votava on February 24, 2012 2:05 PM ET

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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] expressed concern [press release] Thursday over the investigation into post-election violence [JURIST news archive] in the Ivory Coast in 2010 and 2011 and advocated six-month extension of the probe. HRW's primary concern rests on the short time-frame of the investigation, begun in January 2012 and currently finalizing its findings, as well as reports that it has received that indicate that the investigation has been rushed and may miss important elements:
It appears unlikely to have adequately either documented the conflict's serious crimes or identified those responsible on both sides after only a month of investigations. ... In meetings with Human Rights Watch, Ivorian civil society. representatives, United Nations officials, and diplomats highlighted serious problems with the commission. They cited its failure to include representation from pro-Gbagbo groups and to consult sufficiently with civil society.
HRW expressed further concern that all 17 members of the investigating commission were chosen by President Alassane Ouattara [official website, in French], the winner of the election.

Earlier this week, International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] was granted permission [JURIST report] by a pretrial chamber to expand his investigation of war crimes in the Ivory Coast to incidents dating back to 2002. 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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Rights groups bring new challenge against Wisconsin voter ID law
Matthew Pomy on February 24, 2012 1:16 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Advancement Project [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [text, PDF] Thursday on behalf of four other rights groups alleging that the new Wisconsin voter ID law, Wisconsin Act 23 [text, PDF], is unconstitutional because it is racially discriminatory. The new law states that all voters must present photo identification at the polls in order to vote in local, state or federal elections. The complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin [official website], claims that Act 23 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act [text], which "prohibits drawing election districts in ways that improperly dilute minorities' voting power." Plaintiffs argue that:
This law will disproportionately injure African-American and Latino voters, who are much less likely than other members of the electorate to possess the required forms of identification and also face disproportionately greater burdens in obtaining such identification. As a result, African-Americans and Latinos are far more likely than other Wisconsin citizens to have their right to vote denied or abridged by Act 23.
Plaintiffs are asking the court to find the Act in violation of the Voting Rights Act and award legal fees. Similar lawsuits have also been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union [text] and the League of Women Voters [JURIST reports].

There are now 31 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 15 states that require photo ID, but the issue remains controversial. In August, South Carolina's Senate Minority Caucus filed an objection [JURIST report] with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], asking it to reject the state's new voter identification law. In June, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon [official website] vetoed [JURIST report] a law requiring persons to present photo identification at voting booth. In March, the Georgia Supreme Court [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a law requiring voters to present one of six government-issued photo identifications in order to vote. In contrast, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a portion of Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration in October 2010.




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State AGs file suit to block new contraception mandates
Jerry Votava on February 24, 2012 1:11 PM ET

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[JURIST] Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning [official website], joined by attorneys general from six other states, filed a lawsuit Thursday [complaint, PDF] in the US District Court for the District of Nebraska [official website] challenging new health care mandates that require the provision of contraception for all employees, including those of religious institutions. The new mandates were promulgated as a result of the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder] that was signed [JURIST report] in March 2010. The parties argue that the provision of contraception, sterilization and related services by their insurance companies is in effect a subsidy to those practices which may offend individuals with certain religious beliefs. The complaint contends:
[The rule] violates the freedom of speech provided by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution ... because it compels Plaintiffs to subsidize conduct in violation of their moral and religious beliefs[,] ... violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by negating the right of Plaintiffs to act in accordance with their beliefs [and] ... works a substantial burden on the Plaintiffs' ability to freely practice their religion, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In a statement [text, PDF], Bruning said, "[t]his regulation forces millions of Americans to choose between following religious convictions and complying with federal law. This violation of the 1st Amendment is a threat to every American, regardless of religious faith." Joining Nebraska in the challenge are Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

There have been numerous challenges [JURIST timeline] to the constitutionality of various provisions of the PPACA. In January, 26 states submitted a brief to the US Supreme Court [official website] challenging the constitutionality of the expansion of Medicaid for the poor and disabled in the PPACA. In November, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to rule on health care reform law [JURIST report] in three separate cases, originally reserving five-and-half-hours for oral argument on the issue. The Court agreed to hear two hours of arguments on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate issue in Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. The Court will consider Issue 1, which asks, "whether Congress had the power under Article I of the Constitution to enact the minimum coverage provision." The Court also directed parties to brief and argue the question of whether the challenge to PPACA is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act [26 USC § 7421(a)], reserving one hour for argument on that issue. The Court consolidated the cases of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and will hear 90 minutes of oral argument on the question of whether the individual mandate provision can be severed from the remainder of the act. Finally, the court will hear one hour of oral argument on the question of Medicaid expansion.




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UN report: conflict-related sexual violence is global risk
Sung Un Kim on February 24, 2012 11:28 AM ET

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[JURIST] UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom [profile] on Thursday presented the Secretary-General's annual report on conflict-related sexual violence [text, PDF] to the UN Security Council [official website; press release]. The report documents numerous conflict-related sexual violence cases [UN News Centre report] in Colombia, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Libya, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan. Notably the report named for the first time military forces and armed groups suspected of such sexual violence—organizations like Sudan's Lord's Resistance Army [War Child profile] and Congo's Federal Republican Forces. According to the report, one of the worst offenders in these regions was the national armed forces of the DRC. In Congo alone a total of 625 instances of sexual violence were reported—602 against women and 23 against men and boys in the conflict-affected regions of North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale Province—and the DRC armed forces allegedly was responsible for almost half (261) of those cases. In the Ivory Coast there has been an increase in rape and gang rape targeting civilians during the country's recent post-election crises [JURIST news archive]—between January and September 2011, 478 cases of rape were documented in the country, and although 13 arrests were made, no convictions have taken place to date. While presenting the report in New York Wallstrom stressed that conflict-related sexual violence is a global risk, and that the terror of unarmed women facing armed men is age-old and universal. She added that rape can be a "strategic twist" in times of conflict as a tactic of war and terror, and the report notes that such violence often later acts as an impediment to post-conflict resolutions.

War crimes and conflict-related human rights violations represent an ongoing international concern. On Wednesday an International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] pretrial chamber granted the request of Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] to expand his investigation of war crimes in the Ivory Coast [JURIST report] to incidents dating back to 2002. In April Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Ivory Coast to investigate human rights violations [JURIST report], including murder and rape, that were reportedly committed by opposing political forces last year. In March a military court in Congo sentenced 11 army officers [JURIST report] to prison for raping more than 20 women in 2010. A month earlier, the same court sentenced a DRC colonel to 20 years in prison [JURIST report] for being involved in mass rapes.




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US soldier formally charged for leaking information to Wikileaks
Michael Haggerson on February 24, 2012 10:57 AM ET

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[JURIST] Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] was formally charged with 22 counts, including aiding the enemy, under the Espionage Act [text] on Thursday. Manning declined to enter a plea [AP report] at the hearing. The maximum penalty Manning faces is life in prison. The government alleges that Manning transferred more than 700,000 confidential documents and video clips to Wikileaks [website; JURIST news archive], the largest intelligence leak is US history. Manning's defense argues that many others had access to his workplace computers in Iraq, he never should have been deployed to Iraq or entrusted with confidential information because he is emotionally troubled since he was barred from openly serving as a gay man, and the leaks did not hurt US national security.

The US military court referred Manning's case for court-martial [JURIST report] in February. A US Army panel of experts declared Manning competent to stand trial [JURIST report] in April. Manning's prosecution has sparked heated debate between defenders and critics. Those who support Manning's actions refer to him as courageous for acting as a whistleblower [advocacy petition] against government crime and corruption. He has been compared to famous US whistleblowers such as Frank Serpico and Daniel Ellsberg [personal websites], who leaked information regarding corruption in the New York Police Department and the Pentagon, respectively. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates [WP profile] has criticized the video [WSJ report], claiming it provides the public a view of warfare "as seen through a soda straw." He noted that public attention was not drawn to what was discovered by US ground forces following the helicopter gunfire, including AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. He also said that terrorist organizations are made up of combatants who do not wear enemy uniforms. In August, lawyer Charles Lugosi [profile] wrote that Patriot Act provisions and criminal sanctions placed on whistleblowers like Manning violate the Constitution [JURIST commentary] and fundamentally challenge the legitimacy of the rule of law and American democracy. Lugosi noted that individuals, through websites and social networking, can expose modern injustice and raise the conscious awareness of the public to worthy causes and crusades.




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Ninth Circuit upholds California law requiring DNA samples from arrestees
Kevin Green on February 24, 2012 10:19 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that buccal mouth swabs may be used to extract DNA samples from any adult arrested or charged with a felony in California. The 2-1 decision upholds a 2004 voter-enacted provision [Proposition 69 materials] of the DNA and Forensic Identification Database and Data Bank Act of 1998 [text] requiring law enforcement officers to collect such samples from arrestees, a mandate challenged by the plaintiffs as a violation of Fourth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] protections against unlawful search and seizure. Justice Milan Smith, Jr. assessed the constitutionality of the California law under the "totality of the circumstances" test—whether the government interest in collecting and testing a DNA sample without a warrant outweighs the intrusion on an arrestee's privacy. Smith wrote for the majority:
Given the arrestee's diminished privacy interests; the de minimis nature of the physical intrusion entailed in the taking of a buccal swab; the carefully circumscribed scope of the DNA information being extracted; the stringent limits on the manner in which that information may be used; and the well established law enforcement interest in obtaining arrestees' identifying information, and further, to deter future criminal acts and to exculpate innocent arrestees—the balance of interests tilts strongly in favor of upholding the constitutionality of the 2004 Amendment.
The court thus affirmed the lower court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction against the DNA Act.

Last month the Minnesota Supreme Court [official website] upheld a state statute requiring people convicted of crimes to submit a DNA sample, similarly ruling that such a mandate does not violate the Fourth Amendment [JURIST report] right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In August a California appellate court struck down the 2004 Amendment [JURIST report] to the DNA Act, overturning a misdemeanor conviction for a felon's refusal to provide a DNA sample after confessing to arson. US Attorney General Eric Holder instructed federal prosecutors in November 2010 to use DNA evidence as much as possible [JURIST report], reversing the previous policy of the Bush administration. In May 2009 the US District Court for the Eastern District of California upheld the constitutionality of mandatory DNA collection [JURIST report] for all persons arrested or detained under federal authority. In March of that year the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a South Carolina law requiring convicted first degree sex offenders to submit to a DNA test and pay $250 in processing fees prior to their release does not violate the ex post facto clause of the Constitution [JURIST report].




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Egypt ex-president Mubarak defends himself in memo to court
Sung Un Kim on February 24, 2012 10:17 AM ET

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[JURIST] Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] has told the court that he is saddened by "charges of unfair and baseless fabrications" and expressed his confidence in the Egyptian judicial system. Mubarak's remarks were published in form of a memo [text, in Arabic] by Tahrir newspaper on Thursday. Mubarak's remarks to the court became public a day after the defense counsel gave their closing remarks in the trial on charges of conspiracy to kill at least 840 protesters [JURIST report] during demonstrations in Egypt [JURIST news archive]. In his memo, Mubarak emphasized his lifetime dedication and service to the country after the assassination [JURIST report] of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat [official website; JURIST news archive]. He continued to stress that he was the one who made sure that the country's national security, sovereignty and independence were established. After elaborating on such accomplishments, Mubarak accused the protesters of having provoked and attacked security officials. He closed his memo by expressing his confidence in the judicial system: "I have spent my life defending them. Hosni Mubarak is not someone to smear his military honor with ill-gotten wealth. Despite everything, I am totally confident in the fairness and justice of the Egyptian judiciary. I am totally confident in history's judgment, and totally confident in the great Egyptian people's judgment—free from the allegations of the tendentious and those seeking to sow sedition, and those receiving foreign funding." Lawyers confirmed that Mubarak handed a letter to the court during the trial, but the content of the letter is unknown.

The verdict for Mubarak's case was set for June 2 [JURIST report] on Wednesday. A day before the prosecution sought death penalty for Mubarak in its closing remarks consistent with their initial announcement [JURIST reports] in January. The parties began to present their cases in January after the court resumed the trial [JURIST reports] in December. The trial was adjourned twice, in October and August [JURIST reports].




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Cambodia genocide tribunal's legitimacy threatened by judge dispute: rights group
Michael Haggerson on February 24, 2012 10:12 AM ET

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[JURIST] The continuing dispute between Cambodia and the UN over the appointment of Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] threatens the legitimacy of the court [report, PDF; press release], the Open Society Justice Initiative [advocacy website] said Thursday. Kasper-Ansermet took over for Judge Siegfried Blunk who resigned [JURIST report] in October due to Cambodian political interference with the court. The report recommends that the UN continue to maintain its position supporting Kasper-Ansermet, insist the Royal Govenrment of Cambodia accept Kasper-Ansermet, provide financial and human resources assistance so that Kasper-Ansermet can perform his duties and continue to monitor Cambodia's compliance with the 2003 ECCC agreement [text, PDF].

Kasper-Ansermet is the judge tasked with investigating two possible suspects believed to be involved in the deaths of around 1.7 million people during the reign of the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] regime. The investigation relates to ECCC cases 003 and 004 [materials]. The UN refused to replace [JURIST report] Laurent Kasper-Ansermet in January. ECCC judges, including Blunk, have been criticized for allegedly failing to conduct impartial investigations. Cambodia has argued that the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders is a Cambodian issue and should not be a matter of international concern. Also in October, defense lawyers for accused Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen [BBC profile] for interfering with the UN-backed war crimes tribunal. Nuon's lawyers accused the prime minister of criminally conspiring to block some of the defense witnesses from testifying [Reuters report] and consequently interfering with his right to a fair trial. In September, the ECCC ordered the trials be split into a series of smaller trials [JURIST report].




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Ninth Circuit rules 'Armenian genocide' victims not entitled to seek compensation
Saheli Chakrabarty on February 24, 2012 9:22 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that heirs of victims of the Armenian genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Turkey cannot sue German insurance companies for failed life insurance payments from German insurance companies. Descendants of the genocide victims residing in California brought the suit nearly a decade ago, following the passing of a California law [text] in 2000 extending the statute of limitations for unpaid life insurance claims. The Ninth Circuit found California Civil Procedure Code § 354.4 unconstitutional [JURIST report] in August 2009 because it interfered with foreign relations by recognizing the World War I-era killings of more than one million Armenians by Turkish soldiers as a genocide. The court reinstated the suit in December 2010 but decided in November to rehear the case en banc [JURIST reports]. The court held on Thursday that the state law impedes on the federal government's power to regulate foreign affairs:
In conclusion, section 354.4 expresses a distinct point of view on a specific matter of foreign policy. Its effect on foreign affairs is not incidental; rather, section 354.4 is, at its heart, intended to send a political message on an issue of foreign affairs by providing relief and a friendly forum to a perceived class of foreign victims. Nor is the statute merely expressive. Instead, the law imposes a concrete policy of redress for "Armenian Genocide victim[s]," subjecting foreign insurance companies to suit in California by overriding forum-selection provisions and greatly extending the statute of limitations for a narrowly defined class of claims. Thus, section 354.4 "has a direct impact upon foreign relations and may well adversely affect the power of the central government to deal with those problems." ... Section 354.4 therefore intrudes on the federal government’s exclusive power to conduct and regulate foreign affairs.
In response to the Ninth Circuit Court's decision, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America [advocacy website] expressed disappointment and pledged to continue working toward a "principled US policy in support of a truthful, just, and comprehensive resolution of the Armenian Genocide."

The Armenian genocide remains a contentious issue in US law and politics. In August 2010, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] unanimously dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the exclusion of materials questioning the Armenian genocide from a school curriculum. In March 2010, the Obama administration announced its opposition to a resolution [JURIST report] labeling the World War I-era killings as genocide. The announcement came after the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the resolution [JURIST report] by a vote of 23-22. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan condemned the resolution, and the Turkish government recalled its ambassador to the US.




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Maryland Senate sends same-sex marriage bill to governor
Keith Herting on February 24, 2012 9:19 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Maryland Senate on Thursday approved the Civil Marriage Protection Act [SB241, PDF], which would legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] in the state. The legislation passed by a 25-22 margin in the Senate, having already been approved by the lower house [JURIST report] earlier in the week. The bill goes next to Governor Martin O'Malley (D) [official website] who has promised to sign it into law. In the build up to the Senate considering the act, O'Malley encouraged [official statement] the Senate to pass the bill:
Clergy and faith-based leaders, community leaders, civic organizations, civil rights groups, and citizens from across our State have reached the same conclusion that Americans in seven other states have reached—it is possible to protect individual civil marriage rights and religious freedom equally.
Though the bill is positioned to become law, hurdles remain which might derail the legislation from taking effect. The bill will not take effect until 2013 and may be subject to a popular approval if the groups who are currently fighting the bill are able to obtain 56,000 signatures to force a ballot referendum in November. To date, no state which has put same-sex marriage as a referendum for popular approval has had a majority of its citizens affirm the action.

Maryland joins a number of other states working to pass legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry. Earlier this week, Washington state legalized same-sex marriage [JURIST report] after Governor Christine Gregoire signed the legislation. New Jersey is also considering legalizing same-sex marriage soon, although it currently has a civil union system in place. Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a same-sex marriage bill [JURIST report] last week and called for a voter referendum to decide the issue, rather than the state legislature. In November, a lawsuit [JURIST report] was allowed to continue in New Jersey, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the state civil union law as a contravention of both the Fourteenth Amendment and the New Jersey State Constitution. Same-sex marriage has also been legalized in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports].




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