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Legal news from Friday, October 24, 2008

DC Circuit affirms dismissal of Chalabi lawsuit against Jordan
Joe Shaulis on October 24, 2008 1:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against the Kingdom of Jordan [official website; JURIST news archive] by Ahmad Chalabi [BBC profile; INC profile, in Arabic], who led the US-backed Iraqi opposition movement during the regime of Saddam Hussein. The court affirmed a 2004 decision [PDF text] by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] holding that Chalabi's claims were time-barred. Chalabi alleged that Jordan had engaged in a conspiracy violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act [text] (RICO) and committed various torts by seizing Petra Bank [Salon report], which Chalabi founded in 1977. In its opinion, a DC Circuit panel wrote:

Chalabi admits that the statute of limitations for his common-law tort claims is three years, and he does not dispute that his claim accrued when he learned of the plot against him in 1989. Nonetheless, he maintains that he properly pled a "continuing tort." ... [E]ven on the continuing tort theory, Chalabi recognizes that, because he was aware of his injury as of 1989, his recovery is limited to injuries sustained within the limitations period that immediately preceded the filing of his complaint. ... Thus, to have any prospect of even limited recovery, Chalabi must at a minimum show that he was injured within that time frame.

Chalabi's own complaint, and the liquidation decree that it quotes, preclude such a showing. ... Chalabi's position is akin to that of a car-theft victim who alleges that his vehicle was stolen a
decade ago and now complains that the thief is leasing it at below-market rates. Any current mismanagement is being visited upon someone else's asset.
The panel noted that the district court's dismissal based on the statute of limitations was the "easiest path to resolving this case," saving the parties the expense of discovery to ascertain whether the court had personal jurisdiction over Jordan.

Chalabi filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in 2004, alleging that Jordan's government had wrongfully seized the bank and continued to smear his reputation by linking him with intelligence leaks to Iran. He claimed the bank seizure and embezzlement charges against him were an effort to keep him from revealing Jordan's illegal arms deals with Saddam Hussein. As leader of the Iraqi National Congress [organization website], Chalabi was once a frontrunner to head the Iraqi government after Hussein was deposed. After counterfeiting charges against him were dismissed for insufficient evidence, Chalabi went on to serve as oil minister and then deputy prime minister [JURIST reports] of Iraq for parts of 2005 and 2006.

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Kenya parliament endorses truth and reconciliation commission
Kayleigh Shebs on October 24, 2008 1:29 PM ET

[JURIST] Kenya's parliament [official website] Thursday passed a bill [draft text, DOC] endorsing the formation of a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) [task force study, PDF] to investigate alleged human rights violations committed in the country between Kenya's independence in 1963 and February 2008. The investigations will be conducted by a nine-member panel made up of six Kenyan nationals and three foreign members. Amnesty will not be given to any persons the TJRC deems guilty of genocide or other human rights violations. The relationship between the commission and any international tribunal that might be set up in the wake of Kenya's recent election violence at the recommendation [JURIST report] of a separate commission of inquiry headed by Justice Phillip Waki is as yet unclear. The bill creating the TJRC now goes to Kenya's attorney general for review before presentation to President Mwai Kibaki [official profile]. BBC News has more. The Nation has local coverage.

Kenyan officials have considered the formation of a TJRC since 2003. World leaders such as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a Kenyan national, pressured the government [JURIST report] to create such an organization following the violence that erupted after the highly contested presidential election [JURIST report] in December 2007. Subsequent reports found that much of the election-related violence was orchestrated by local government and community leaders [JURIST report].

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Regulatory gaps need to be fixed: SEC chairman
Steve Czajkowski on October 24, 2008 11:30 AM ET

[JURIST] US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] Chairman Christopher Cox [official profile] said Thursday in testimony [PDF text] before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official website] that the current credit crisis demonstrates a need for more regulation of credit default swaps and investment banking. The hearing was one part in a series examining the origin of the current financial crisis. Cox also advocated for oversight for investment bank holding companies, recognizing each regulatory agency's core competencies, and ensuring that securities regulation and enforcement remain independent. He described the need for a revised regularized system this way:

The current regulatory system is a hodge-podge of divided responsibility and regulatory seams. Coordination among regulators is enormously difficult in this fragmented arrangement, where each of them implements different statutes that treat various financial products and services differently. Today’s balkanized regulatory system undermines the objectives of getting results and ensuring accountability.
Reuters has more. RTT news has additional coverage.

Earlier this month the SEC said that it has begun an agency review [SEC statement; JURIST report] of US financial accounting procedures, including "mark-to-market" [SEC backgrounder] rules, pursuant to the passage of a $700 billion financial rescue bill [JURIST report].

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New York council amends charter to extend term limits for Bloomberg
Jay Carmella on October 24, 2008 11:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The New York City Council [official website] passed a resolution [text] Thursday to amend the city's charter [PDF text] by extending elected city officials' term limits from two to three terms of four years. The resolution, which took effect upon its passage by a 29-22 vote, allows Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official website] to pursue his plans to seek a third term [NYT report], announced early this month. The council stressed the importance of continuity in leadership during a financial crisis. The New York Times has more.

On Wednesday, a New York State judge rejected a petition [JURIST report] brought by two City Council members trying to prevent a council vote, arguing it represented a conflict of interest because it would also extend term limits for council members. Bloomberg's resolution was proposed too late to place a measure on the ballot in November, allowing the council to consider the issue. Critics have suggested that the council ignored the wishes of the voters and that the action would prevent viable candidates from running for office in 2009 because of Bloomberg's popularity and personal wealth. Twice during the 1990s New York City voters passed referendums on term limits [NYT report].

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Nigeria top court defers ruling on presidential election challenge
Steve Czajkowski on October 24, 2008 10:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Nigeria [official website] said Thursday it has reserved judgment indefinitely on a challenge to the country's disputed 2007 presidential election [JURIST report] which was won by President Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC profile]. The challenge was brought by former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar [JURIST news archive] and Muhammadu Buhari [campaign website], Yar'Adua's main challenger in the election, after it was alleged that the election was marred by rampant fraud [JURIST report]. The two men argued that there were violations of electoral laws that were capable of affecting the elections, particularly where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) [official website] had declared Yar'Adua the winner before each state announced its results. Yar'Adua rebutted that argument, saying the two had not proven that the election was not in compliance with electoral laws. Chief Justice Idris Kutigi said the court will inform the parties when a date is set for the decision. Bloomberg has more. The Daily Independent has local coverage.

In April 2007, the INEC declared Yar'Adua the winner of the country's presidential elections, prompting the filings by Buhari and Abubakar. The election tribunal, which was formed [JURIST report] prior to the election in order to handle disputes, ordered the INEC to turn over certified copies of the ballots [JURIST report] and provide information on all officials and staff employed for the elections. In February Nigeria's Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal upheld the results of the election, saying that opposition groups failed to present sufficient evidence to support their fraud allegations [JURIST report]. Buhari and Abubakar appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. Yar'Adua had said that he would resign if the Supreme Court invalidated his victory.

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Indonesia AG expects Bali bombers' execution in November
Devin Montgomery on October 24, 2008 9:46 AM ET

[JURIST] A spokesman for Indonesia's Attorney General Friday said the execution of three men sentenced to death for their roles in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings [BBC backgrounder] will be held in early November. The spokesman, Jasman Panjaitan, said that the three members of the southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Mukhlas, Imam Samudra and Amrozi Nurhasyim [BBC profiles], had exhausted all available appeals and would now have their sentences carried out. Most recently, Indonesia's Constitutional Court earlier this week rejected [JURIST report] a request by the men that their execution be carried out by beheading rather than firing squad. Despite the Attorney General's position, a lawyer for the men said he still plans to file a new challenge [Xinhua report] to the sentence in the country's Supreme Court next week. The execution of the men, expected to be protested by thousands, has been characterized [Reuters report] as a test of the Indonesian government's ability to control extreme Islamic groups. AFP has more.

In August, Indonesia's attorney general postponed the execution [JURIST report] of the three men during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, saying the legal challenge alone was insufficient to stay the sentences. A lawyer for the men had promised to bring their constitutional challenge after the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the third appeal [JURIST reports] in July. Their first appeal had been rejected late last year, prompting an unusual second appeal, which was later withdrawn [JURIST reports]. In May, Indonesian police arrested [JURIST report] another JI member, Faiz Fauzan, in connection with a second set of Bali bombings [BBC report] in 2005. In March, an Indonesian judge handed down 15-year sentences [JURIST report] to two JI leaders, Zarkasih and Abu Dujana [BBC profiles], after convicting them of other terrorism charges.

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UN investigator urges North Korea to improve rights record
Devin Montgomery on October 24, 2008 8:15 AM ET

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea Vitit Muntarbhorn [press release] on Thursday called [UN News Centre report] on the country to take urgent action to improve its rights record. Muntarbhorn said the country holds public executions, punishes those who have unsuccessfully sought asylum in other countries, and has failed to cooperate with efforts to locate kidnapped foreign citizens thought to be held in the country. He also said that while the country has been generally cooperative with international aid efforts, there have been reports of long-distance call restrictions in a effort to quiet news of food shortages [VOA report]. Reporting to the UN General Assembly [official website] panel, Muntarbhor called on North Korea to cease these actions, and to make longer-term changes decreasing its emphasis on the military and promoting economic development and broader recognition of human rights. AFP has more.

Muntarbhorn made similar observations in January when he and a special UN envoy visited Japan [press release; JURIST report] to assess the impact of the North Korean rights situation on that country. In November 2007, South Korean aid agency Good Friends [advocacy website, in Korean] said that the North Korean government has increased the use of public executions [JURIST report]. The government of North Korea has long been accused of using the death penalty against its political enemies, among other human rights violations. In September 2007, the US State Department designated North Korea as a "country of particular concern" for its systematic repression of religious freedom in its annual Report on International Religious Freedom [text; JURIST report]. North Korea has also been accused of human trafficking, press repression, and "actively committing crimes against humanity" [JURIST reports].

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Federal judge declares Arizona county jail conditions 'unconstitutional'
Kiely Lewandowski on October 24, 2008 8:09 AM ET

[JURIST] An Arizona federal district court ruled [linked order, PDF] Wednesday that conditions in Maricopa County [official website] corrections facilities violate the constitutional rights of its prisoners. US District Judge Neil Wake's order demanded that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio [official website] take standards steps to address the jails' overcrowded and unhygienic conditions. Sheriff Arpaio, who took office in 1993 and has called himself 'America's Toughest Sheriff,' said that he will comply with the 'minor modifications' imposed by the federal judge, but maintained [Sheriff's Office press release, PDF] that he has always run a 'safe and constitutionally adequate jail system.' Attorneys for the ACLU National Prison Project [advocacy website] argued [pret-trial brief, PDF] the case, which had been in the courts in various guises for 31 years. AP has more; The Arizona Republic has local coverage.

Last week, a federal judge ordered [JURIST report] California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] to give his position on providing $250 million this year toward the $8 billion needed to reform that state's prison health care system. In January, a federal judge ruled [JURIST report; opinion, PDF] that the health care provided in California's prisons does not meet constitutional standards.

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Turkey resumes trial of alleged coup plotters
Kiely Lewandowski on October 24, 2008 8:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The High Criminal Court in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday continued the trial of those accused of attempting to destabilize and overthrow the government of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website]. Turkish prosecutors have charged 86 people with involvement in the attempted coup, but Thursday's proceedings were limited to the 46 defendants who are being held in custody. The trial opened Monday [JURIST report] but was adjourned due to overcrowding and 'chaos' in the courtroom [AP report]. The court concluded that the remaining 40 defendants - who are free on bail - will be present at the next hearing due to defense objections to the trial proceeding in two separate groups. AP has more.

The accused are said to belong to the secular Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder] group, believed responsible for bombing the headquarters of the newspaper Cumhuriyet [media website, in Turkish], assassinating Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], and planning other attacks to provoke a military coup to topple the AKP. Among those on trial are journalists, intellectuals, and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [personal website, in Turkish; JURIST report]. Critics allege that the AKP has improperly investigated secular groups as part of a drive to impose Islamic principles [Ha'aretz report] on the country in violation of the country's secular constitution.

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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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