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Legal news from Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Russia justice system wrongly charging thousands: chief prosecutor
Andrew Gilmore on May 27, 2008 3:33 PM ET

[JURIST] Russian authorities are wrongly indicting thousands of citizens every year, Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] said Tuesday at a Moscow meeting held to discuss compensation for those falsely charged. Chaika said that in 2007, 5,265 people were eventually cleared after having charges wrongly laid against them. Critics have long slammed the Russian justice system as riddled with corruption and intimidation, but Chaika's comments are the first admission by a high-ranking government official of extensive problems in the prosecution process. BBC News has more. Russian news agency ITAR-TASS has local coverage.

Chaika's comments come after a promise last Tuesday by new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] to take steps to tackle corruption and intimidation in the Russian judicial system [JURIST report], calling for reforms to better train and support judges and to preserve the rule of law. Also last week, Medvedev signed a measure to establish an anti-corruption council [JURIST report].

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Zimbabwe refuses to extradite ex-Ethiopia leader Mengistu to face death penalty
Andrew Gilmore on May 27, 2008 2:28 PM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwe will not return former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to Ethiopia to face a death sentence, a Zimbabwean Information Ministry official said Tuesday. The Ethiopian Supreme Court sentenced Mengistu to death in absentia on Monday after Ethiopian prosecutors appealed his January 2007 life sentence [JURIST reports] on charges of genocide, homicide, illegal imprisonment, and illegal property seizure. Mengistu ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991, during which time 150,000 university students, intellectuals, and politicians are believed to have been killed. After being overthrown by rebels in 1991, Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe, where he is described as "guest" under the protection of President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive].

Zimbabwean opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change [party website], currently locked in a bitter battle with the Mugabe regime over the disputed results of the recent presidential elections [JURIST news archive], has pledged that if party leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] turns out to have won the country's recent presidential election, Mengistu will be extradited to Ethiopia. Reuters has more. SW Radio Africa has local coverage.

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Chile judge orders arrests in Pinochet-era 'disappearances' investigation
Devin Montgomery on May 27, 2008 11:49 AM ET

[JURIST] A Chilean judge Monday ordered the arrest of 98 people suspected of covering up over 100 kidnappings and murders during the 1973-1990 rule of former military dictator Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The court's investigation is focused on the regime's program of torturing and "disappearing" political dissidents, and those arrested include former members of the country's National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) [FAS backgrounder], as well as civilians. The Guardian has more. CNN has additional coverage.

Monday's court order comes following a number of other prosecutions [JURIST news archive] of Pinochet-era officials in recent years. Pinochet died two years ago, and a court later found that his family members could not be held responsible for funds allegedly embezzled [JURIST reports] by the dictator.

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Supreme Court rules on employer retaliation, Alabama voting law
Abigail Salisbury on May 27, 2008 11:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down three decisions Tuesday, including two cases involving alleged employer retaliation [JURIST archive]. In Gomez-Perez v. Potter [LII case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court held 6-3 that a provision [text] in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects government employees who complain of age discrimination from subsequent retaliation. The Court reversed a ruling [text] by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and held that anyone who is a victim of such treatment may make a claim under the Act. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Alito, along with a dissent from Roberts and a separate dissent [texts] from Thomas.

In a similar case involving a Cracker Barrel restaurant, CBOCS West v. Humphries [Duke Law backgrounder], the Court found 7-2 that 42 USC 1981 [text] created a cause of action for an employee who suffered retaliation as a result of claiming workplace discrimination [JURIST news archive] based on race. The Court affirmed a ruling [PDF text] by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, noting that "this Court has long held that the statutory text of §1981’s sister statute, §1982, provides protection from retaliation for reasons related to the enforcement of the express statutory right." Read the Court's opinion per Justice Breyer, along with a dissent [texts] by Thomas. AP has more.

In Riley v. Kennedy [LII backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled on a Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text] requirement that certain states must obtain federal clearance before changing their voting rules, a measure imposed to guard against racial discrimination. The Court reversed by 7-2 the ruling [PDF text] of the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, holding that returning to a previous election law when a new one was struck down by the Supreme Court of Alabama was not a violation of the VRA, because there had been no "change" in need of clearance. The Court emphasized the narrowness of the holding, essentially limiting it to the facts of the case. Read the Court's opinion by Justice Ginsburg and the dissent [texts] by Stevens. AP has more.

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Arctic states meeting to discuss allocation of seabed drilling rights
Allyson Amster on May 27, 2008 11:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The five states that border the Arctic - Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US - will meet in Greenland Wednesday to discuss plans to divide harvesting rights [press release] to resources and minerals on the Arctic seabed. Under the Law of the Sea Treaty [text], a country has exclusive harvesting rights to a zone extending 200 nautical miles from its shore, but when a continental shelf extends farther a nation may claim up to 350 miles from the baseline or 100 miles from the 2,500 meter depth. Questions about Arctic sea oil and gas rights have become more pressing lately, as global warming estimates predict that previously unattainable ice-locked resources will be within reach by mid-century. Reuters has more.

Environmental organizations have criticized efforts to expand oil drilling [WWF report] into the Arctic Sea, calling for increased research into energy conservation and renewable resources instead. Critics have also said that offshore development will require massive amounts of infrastructure that could impact local wildlife.

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Peru ex-general alleges Fujimori authorized death squad killings
Mike Rosen-Molina on May 27, 2008 10:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Peruvian general Rodolfo Robles testified Monday that he believed that former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was responsible for two massacres that took place during his presidency in the early 1990s, but admitted that he did not have any evidence linking Fujimori to the deaths. He said that he had "absolute conviction" that Fujimori authorized the killings, which he said were carried out by a death squad under the control of Fujimori's intelligence head Vladimiro Montesinos [JURIST report]. AP has more.

Fujimori is currently being tried on murder and kidnapping charges [JURIST report] stemming from military killings of 25 people in 1991 and 1992. The victims included a professor and nine students killed at the so-called La Cantuta massacre [MIT backgrounder] at Lima's La Cantuta University, along with 15 people killed in Lima's Barrios Altos area. Fujimori has claimed that he did not authorize and did not have any knowledge of the killings, which took place in the context of a war on Shining Path rebels [FAS backgrounder] in the country.

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Myanmar junta to detain democracy activist Suu Kyi for another year
Mike Rosen-Molina on May 27, 2008 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The ruling junta of Myanmar Tuesday extended the house arrest of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for another year, a decision that has angered and frustrated many in the international community. Suu Kyi's detention was set to expire at midnight Tuesday, although the military government was widely expected to issue the extension. The extension is said to violate a Myanmar law that bars the government from detaining a person for over five years without trial. The Globe and Mail has more.

Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, has spent 11 of the past 17 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text]. Last year, the military government had implied that she might be released [JURIST report] after the country's new constitution was approved. Earlier this month, the junta announced that Myanmar's draft constitution [JURIST news archive] had been overwhelmingly approved [JURIST report] in a national referendum after two rounds of voting with 92 percent of votes cast favoring the proposed charter and 98 percent of the country's 27 million eligible voters turning out.

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Argentina court puts ex-army commander on trial for alleged 'Dirty War' crimes
Devin Montgomery on May 27, 2008 9:48 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Argentine general Luciano Benjamin Menendez [Project Disappeared profile] and seven others went on trial Tuesday for the alleged 1977 kidnapping, torture, and killing of four political dissidents during the country's "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The 80-year old Menendez, who commanded an army corps in the late 1970s, was originally taken into custody in 2005, when a judge ordered his arrest [JURIST report] in connection with a separate murder. AP has more.

It is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" during the Argentine government's campaign against suspected dissidents during the country's "Dirty War." In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to protect potential defendants, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases.

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Uganda establishes special war crimes court to try LRA rebels
Devin Montgomery on May 27, 2008 8:18 AM ET

[JURIST] Uganda [JURIST news archive] has established a special court to hear cases of alleged war crimes and human rights abuses related to an ongoing rebellion in the country [JURIST news archive], a High Court judge said Monday. Uganda's government agreed to create the war crimes court [JURIST report] in February during peace negotiations with the guerrilla Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [BBC backgrounder]. There is speculation that the the war crimes court, which will have the authority to try LRA leaders, was created to persuade the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to drop arrest warrants currently out for LRA leaders, a conclusion supported by the LRA's refusal to sign a final peace agreement [JURIST reports] unless the warrants are suspended. BBC News has more. New Vision has additional coverage.

Late last week, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] said that the court was investigating possible new crimes [JURIST report] committed by the LRA after peace talks with the government stalled in April. Ocampo has also said that arrest warrants issued by the ICC for LRA leaders will remain in effect, despite requests from Uganda that they be withdrawn [JURIST reports]. The government has said that LRA leaders are willing to face trial at home [JURIST report], but that the special war crimes court was established because of public demand for local trials rather than to appease LRA rebels.

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For more legal news check the Paper Chase Archive...


Unprecedented Notice of Warrantless Wiretapping in a Closed Case
Ramzi Kassem
CUNY School of Law

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible, ad-free format.


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