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Legal news from Tuesday, September 12, 2006




DOJ defends policy encouraging turnover of corporate records to investigators
Lisl Brunner on September 12, 2006 8:28 PM ET

[JURIST] US Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty [official bio] expressed support at a Senate hearing Tuesday for a Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] policy that encourages corporations to turn over confidential records to officials investigating corporate fraud [JURIST news archive]. The 2003 Thompson Memorandum [PDF] instructs prosecutors that cooperation by officials is one of nine factors to take into account in determining whether to press charges against a company. According to McNulty, such cooperation may include disclosing the results of internal investigations and waiving attorney-client protections, although refusal to take these steps would not necessarily result in charges.

In testimony [official statement] before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary [official website], McNulty praised the transparency that the policy gives to the charging process. A spokesperson for the American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] opposed the policy [press release], however, arguing that "the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine are fundamental principles of our legal system that must be protected." The US Chamber of Commerce [press release] also urged the committee to invalidate provisions of the memorandum that would impede communication between attorneys and their clients. AP has more.






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Ethiopia grants amnesty to hundreds of prisoners
Lisl Brunner on September 12, 2006 8:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Ethiopian President Girma Woldegiorgis [official profile] granted amnesty to 263 prisoners on Tuesday, including full clemency for 237, reduced sentences for 15 and commuting of the death penalty for 11. President Woldegiorgis described the unprecedented amnesty as motivated by the inmates' good behavior and repentance. Ethiopia arrested thousands of protestors [JURIST report] after 2005 elections that were perceived to be fraudulent, charging over 100 journalists, lawmakers and human rights activists with treason [JURIST report]. It is unclear whether the reprieves applied to any of these detainees, but officials announced that people convicted of rape and corruption were not among those who received clemency.

Ethiopia's human rights record has been criticized [JURIST report] in past months by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile, JURIST news archive] and the African Union [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Uruguay indicts 8 for Operation Condor disappearances
Lisl Brunner on September 12, 2006 7:12 PM ET

[JURIST] Eight former police and military officers have been indicted by a Uruguayan court on counts of kidnapping and conspiracy committed during Uruguay's military dictatorship of 1973-85 [LOC backgrounder]. The crimes relate to the 1976 disappearances of five members of an Uruguayan leftist group who fled to Argentina and were detained there by police. Investigators suspect that the men were victims of Operation Condor [BBC report], a co-ordinated effort by South American dictators to dispose of "subversive" groups during the 1970s. Last week, Supreme Court of Uruguay denied a defense motion to dismiss the case on constitutional grounds.

Eight of the original ten indictees remain in a capital prison; one has fled and another committed suicide. A 1986 amnesty law [text] and individual pardons have prevented these offenses from being brought to trial in the past. Two of the men currently being charged had their pardons overturned as unconstitutional [opinion, in Spanish] in July. The process mirrors a similar struggle in Argentina [JURIST news archive], which has recently brought suspects to trial for crimes committed during its own dictatorship. Mercopress has more. El Pais of Montevideo has local coverage.






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Ex-Rwandan army officer sentenced to 25 years for genocide
Katerina Ossenova on September 12, 2006 3:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] sentenced [summary of judgment] a former Rwandan army officer to 25 years in prison on Tuesday on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity connected to the 1994 genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that left at least 937,000 Tutsis and Hutus dead. Lt. Col. Tharcisse Muvunyi, the former Commander of the Rwandan military school, was convicted [ICTR press release] for his role in the ethnic separation and subsequent killing of orphan children and the killing of at least 140 students and Red Cross workers. Meanwhile, Jean Mpambara, a former mayor of Rukara commune in the Kibungo Prefecture of Rwanda [JURIST news archive], was acquitted [judgment] of genocide charges and his alleged involvement [ICTR press release] in three different massacres of Tutsi civilians.

To date, ICTR has rendered 29 judgments, and a 2008 deadline has been set to complete the trials of the remaining 27 suspects. The Rwandan Parliament [official website] will vote [JURIST report] on a bill in December aimed at abolishing capital punishment in an effort to encourage other countries to extradite suspects who remain at large. Except for the US, other nations have refused to extradite suspects, noting they might face the death penalty upon their return. AP has more.






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Israel military court orders Palestinian lawmakers released on bail
Katerina Ossenova on September 12, 2006 2:37 PM ET

[JURIST] An Israeli military court Tuesday ordered the release of 21 Palestinian lawmakers, including three cabinet ministers, who were detained [JURIST report] following the Hamas capture of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit [Wikipedia backgrounder] in Gaza in June. Prosecutors are appealing the decision to release the detainees on bail, however, and the lawmakers will remain in jail for another 48 hours pending that challenge.

Over 30 Hamas [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive] lawmakers have been detained since Shalit's capture on June 29, including Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dweik [official profile, in Arabic; JMCC profile] and the secretary-general of the Palestinian Legislative Council [official website]. Reuters has more.






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Human rights groups denounce new Chinese foreign news regulations
Katerina Ossenova on September 12, 2006 1:56 PM ET

[JURIST] International human rights groups have denounced China's release of new media regulations [text] governing the domestic release of news and information by foreign news agencies. The regulations, which give China's official Xinhua News Agency [official website] ultimate rights of approval [JURIST report] over the distribution and release of foreign news content, are being seen as a threat to the free flow of information and the ability to disseminate foreign news in China [JURIST news archive]. Human Rights in China [advocacy website] voiced its particular concern [press release] Monday on the effect the measures will have on the 2008 Beijing Olympics, saying "These latest measures sound a wake-up call to the international community that a closed, state-controlled Olympics is on the horizon." A Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website] spokesman said the rules would not effect media coverage of the Olympics and that they were a continuation of a 1996 cabinet decree regulating economic information.

Under the new rules, released Sunday, foreign news agencies are designated as agents of Xinhua and are subject to an annual review. Xinhua is specifically granted the right to ban [Xinhua report] all news content that will "undermine China's national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity" or "endanger China's national security, reputation and interests." The measures come in the wake of several other high-profile steps [JURIST report] taken by Chinese authorities in recent months to limit free expression and silence dissent. Reuters has more.






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US judge dismisses Sudan genocide lawsuit against Canadian energy company
Brett Murphy on September 12, 2006 1:42 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit alleging that Canadian oil and gas producer Talisman Energy [corporate website] aided genocide in order to access oil in Sudan. The judge ruled that "the plaintiffs have failed to locate admissible evidence that Talisman has violated international law."

The First Presbyterian Church of Sudan filed the suit [complaint, PDF] in 2001 alleging human rights violations against the company, including extrajudicial killing, forcible displacement, war crimes, kidnapping and rape. Cote originally allowed the suit to continue [JURIST report] despite US and Canadian government attempts to have it dismissed. AP has more.






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Kurd survivor testifies as Saddam genocide trial continues
Brett Murphy on September 12, 2006 1:32 PM ET

[JURIST] A Kurdish witness testifying Tuesday in the resumed [JURIST report] genocide trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] described how Iraqi troops bombed his village outside the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya in 1988 and of how he fled to Iran with relatives, but lost his mother and two sisters, whose identity cards were found in 2004 in a mass grave, along the way. Saddam defended the so-called Anfal campaign, declaring at one point in the session that "Rebellion is rebellion. Let's come up with one country which had a rebellion that wasn't confronted by the army."

A verdict in the Dujail crimes against humanity case [JURIST report] against Saddam and six co-defendants is expected to be delivered on October 16. Hussein is eligible for the death penalty [JURIST report] in the Dujail case, and a US official, speaking anonymously, indicated last month that the Anfal trial could continue posthumously [JURIST report] should Hussein be executed before proceedings in the second trial conclude. BBC News has more. AP has additional coverage.






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UK lays first terror training charge under new law
Brett Murphy on September 12, 2006 1:14 PM ET

[JURIST] British prosecutors have charged Yassin Mutegombwa with receiving training for terrorism, making him the first person in the UK charged with the new offense under the recently enacted Terrorism Act 2006 [text]. Mutegombwa was one of 14 suspects arrested [JURIST report] during anti-terror raids [BBC report] in Britain conducted in early September.

A British court Tuesday ordered four of those arrested, including Mutegombwa, to remain in custody [Reuters report]. Hassan Mutegombwa, Yassin's brother, is charged with procuring funds for terrorism and the other two defendants are charged with possessing information likely to be useful to someone committing acts of terrorism. Two other of the original 14 suspects have been released, while eight others remain in custody for further questioning. The Metropolitan Police [official website] has said that these arrests are not connected with the alleged terror plot [JURIST report] to blow up US-bound planes airplanes said to have been foiled by authorities in August. The Independent has local coverage.






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Senate Republicans offer compromise military commissions bill
Jeannie Shawl on September 12, 2006 11:12 AM ET

[JURIST] US Senators John Warner (R-VA), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Monday circulated a revised draft [PDF text] of a bill that would establish military commissions [JURIST news archive] for terror detainees. Although the draft is closer to the Bush administration's own proposed legislation [PDF text; White House fact sheet], the senators' revision retains several points at odds with the White House proposal. Concessions include a provision that would revise the War Crimes Act [text; JURIST report] to limit prosecution of detainee abuse to conduct that "shocks the conscience," as well as provisions that would prevent detainees from challenging their detention or treatment in US courts and from collecting damages for any violations of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials]. The draft nonethless diverges from the White House's proposal in requiring that any evidence used during a military commission be declassified or summarized for the defendant and allowing the presiding judge to dismiss a case if the government fails to turn such evidence over. Also contentious is the definition of who would be subject to military commissions - the revised Senate bill would limit defendants to "alien unlawful enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against the United States," but the White House version has no such limitation, theoretically leaving open the possibility of military commissions trying US citizens for unspecified law of war violations.

Meanwhile, US Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has drafted a third proposed bill [AP report] to be considered by his committee on Wednesday. Hunter's draft takes a more hard-line approach than the senators' version and would allow classified evidence to be kept from defendants, but would instruct members of a military commission to weigh classified evidence in light of a defendant's lack of access to it. The Washington Post has more.






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India court delivers first verdicts in 1993 Mumbai bombings trial
Jeannie Shawl on September 12, 2006 10:20 AM ET

[JURIST] An Indian court Tuesday convicted four people - all members of the same family - of conspiracy and aiding a terrorist act in the 1993 Mumbai bombings [BBC backgrounder], a series of attacks which killed 257 people and injured over 700 others in India's financial center. Indian prosecutors charged 123 defendants in connection with the attacks and during the course of a trial which lasted over 10 years, the court heard testimony from 686 witnesses. It is expected to take several weeks for the court to announce verdicts for all defendants, and sentences will be announced after all verdicts have been delivered.

Three defendants, also members of the Memon family, were found not guilty Tuesday. Eleven defendants have died since proceedings began, and 36 have remained in jail, though all others were released on bail. Thirty-seven other suspects, including suspected mastermind Dawood Ibrahim [BBC profile], remain at large. Reuters has more. BBC News has additional coverage.






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Federal judge refuses to block Arizona voter ID law
Jeannie Shawl on September 12, 2006 9:46 AM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Roslyn Silver on Monday refused to prevent enforcement of an Arizona law requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID [AZ Sec. State materials] or two non-photo forms of identification before casting a ballot. The measure, which also requires voters to show proof of citizenship, was approved in 2004 [JURIST report] in an effort to stop voter fraud and is part of Arizona's Proposition 200 [PDF text]. Tuesday's primary will be the first statewide test of the new photo ID rules.

Advocacy groups have been unsuccessful in having the law overturned on the grounds that it will disenfranchise some voters, especially minorities and the elderly. In June, Silver rejected a bid [JURIST report] by Latino and voter-advocacy groups to temporarily halt the ID requirements, writing that "determining whether an individual is a United States citizen is of paramount importance when determining his or her eligibility to vote." The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last year refused to block the implementation [JURIST report] of Proposition 200 in a separate lawsuit.

Photo ID requirements have also been the subject of litigation in other states. A federal judge in Missouri heard arguments [JURIST report] late last month in a lawsuit challenging a Missouri law [SB 1014 summary; text, PDF] requiring voters to show photo identification [Missouri Dept. Revenue backgrounder] before being permitted to vote. In April, a federal court in Indiana upheld [JURIST report] a law [PDF text] requiring voters to present a government-issue photo ID at the polls. A Georgia revision [SB 84 materials] of a voter ID law was again blocked from enforcement [JURIST report] in July. A previous version [PDF text] of the law was blocked by a federal judge last year [JURIST report] because it discriminated on the basis of the voters' ability to pay for the ID, thereby functioning as a poll tax. AP has more. The Arizona Republic has local coverage.






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Europe court upholds UK law allowing Gibralter residents to vote in EU elections
Jeannie Shawl on September 12, 2006 9:13 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice [official website] Tuesday upheld a UK law [press release, PDF; ECJ case materials] that extends the right to vote in European Parliament elections to residents of Gibraltar [government website; BBC backgrounder], the tiny British overseas territory at the mouth of the Mediterranean. In 2003, the UK established a new electoral region combining an existing region in England with Gibralter, conferring the right to vote in European Parliament elections to the territory's roughly 27,000 residents. Gibralter does not belong to the European Union. Spain, which has long disputed UK rule of the strategically-important "Rock", sued to block the UK law in European courts, arguing that "only citizens of the Union can be recognised as having the right to vote in elections to the European Parliament."

The European Court of Justice rejected Spain's claims, and according to the court's press release:

The Court holds that neither the EC Treaty nor the 1976 Act defines expressly and precisely who are to be entitled to the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament. Therefore, in the current state of Community law, the definition of the persons entitled to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament falls within the competence of each Member State in compliance with Community law. The relevant articles of the EC Treaty do not preclude the Member States from granting that right to vote and to stand as a candidate to certain persons who have close links to them, other than their own nationals or citizens of the Union resident in their territory.
Reuters has more.





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ICTY charges Croatian journalist with contempt for publishing witness names
Jeannie Shawl on September 12, 2006 8:47 AM ET

[JURIST] Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website] on Monday charged freelance Croatian journalist Domagoj Margetic with contempt of court for posting the names of two protected witnesses on his website. Margetic is accused of publishing the names of witnesses who testified in the trial of Tihomir Blaskic [ICTY case backgrounder], a former Croatian militia commander in Bosnia who was convicted [judgment text] in 2000 of crimes against humanity, war crimes and other charges. Blaskic's initial 45-year sentence was reduced to nine years [JURIST report] in 2004, but ICTY prosecutors have asked the court to reopen the case in light of new witness testimony.

Last month, Croatian journalist Josip Jovic was found guilty of contempt [judgment summary; JURIST report] for publishing transcripts of a closed court session during Blaskic's trial. This is not the first time Margetic has faced contempt charges. While an editor of weekly publication Hrvatsko Slovo, Margetic and the paper's publisher were charged with contempt of the tribunal [indictment] in 2005 for publishing witness testimony. That indictment, however, was withdrawn [decision, PDF] in June 2006. Reuters has more.






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IRS, GlaxoSmithKline reach largest ever tax settlement in transfer pricing dispute
Jeannie Shawl on September 12, 2006 8:29 AM ET

[JURIST] GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) [corporate website] has agreed to pay $3.4 billion [IRS press release] to settle Internal Revenue Service [official website] claims in what the IRS calls "the largest tax dispute in the history of the Internal Revenue Service." According to the IRS:

The agreement between GSK and the IRS brings to a conclusion a dispute dating back to the 1980s and involves adjustments to GSK's tax years from 1989 through 2000. The Tax Court case concerns "transfer pricing," an accounting method requiring that related parties engage in transactions at arm's length to ensure the proper reporting of taxable income. GSK and the IRS have also reached agreement for tax years 2001 through 2005 with respect to the transfer pricing issues arising in those years.

The Tax Court dispute for years 1989-2000 involves intercompany transactions between GSK and certain of its foreign affiliates relating to various GSK "heritage" pharmaceutical products. Specifically at issue is the level of U.S. profits reported by GSK after making intercompany payments that took into account product intangibles developed by and trademarks owned by its U.K. parent, and other activities outside the U.S., and the value of GSK's marketing and other contributions in the U.S. Under the settlement agreement, GSK has conceded over 60% of the total amount put in issue by the two parties for the years pending in Tax Court.
In addition to the $3.4 billion payment, GSK has agreed to abandon its efforts to receive a $1.8 billion refund, also related to the transfer pricing dispute.

According to a GSK press release Monday, the final net cash cost to the company will be about $3.1 billion, taking into account federal, state and local taxes, interest and also the benefit of tax relief on the payments made. AP has more.





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