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Legal news from Saturday, February 7, 2009




Italy president blocks measure to stop euthanasia of comatose woman
Steve Czajkowski on February 7, 2009 11:47 AM ET

[JURIST] Italian President Giorgio Napolitano [BBC profile] Friday refused to sign an Italian government decree intended to stop the father of Eluana Englaro [materials, in Italian], who has been in a vegetative state for 16 years, from removing her feeding tube. Napolitano said the measure was unconstitutional because it would effectively overrule last year's decision [JURIST report] by the country's Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian] to allow removal of the tube, thus violating the separation of power between the executive and judicial branches. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] had urged approval of the legislative decree and has convened Italy's Cabinet to draft new legislation to be presented to the Italian Parliament [official website, in Italian] on Monday. While a decree from the legislature requires the president's signature, an actual bill can become law if it is approved by both houses of Parliament. Euthanasia [JURIST news archive] is currently illegal in Italy [JURIST report], and there is no law that allows an unconscious patient to give future directions on his or her treatment.

Eluana Englaro has been in a coma since an automobile accident in 1992. Her father, Beppino Englaro, has been fighting to have her feeding tube removed since 1999. In 2005, Italy's Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] upheld [JURIST report] a lower court's ruling to keep her feeding tube in place because they could not find specific evidence on Englaro's personal views of life and death. In October of last year, the Constitutional Court rejected [decision text, in Italian; JURIST report] a parliamentary challenge to a Milan appeals court decision which held doctors could remove Enlargo's feeding tube because she was found to be in an 'irreversible' vegetative state. In November the Court of Cassation affirmed that decision, ruling that Enlargo's father could remove her feeding tube. Catholic groups and conservative politicians opposed the decision arguing [Independent report] that the court is permitting euthanasia.






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Leaders spar over rights issues after EU-Russia meeting
Steve Czajkowski on February 7, 2009 10:03 AM ET

[JURIST] European Commission [official website] President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] noticeably irritated Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website] at a joint news conference [transcript] held in Moscow Friday when Barroso commented on apparent human rights violations in Russia [AP report]. Barroso's comments on talks that had taken place earlier with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] about the rule of law in Russia upset Putin, who responded by accusing European countries of human rights violations in regards to prisoners and immigrants. Barroso in return noted recent rights violations in Russia, particularly the murders of journalists and human rights activists [JURIST report]. Putin attempted to end the discussion at that point. The news conference had been held after a meeting [press release] between European Commission members and Russia intended to increase ties and discuss issues such as energy security and the global economic crisis.

Despite an energy supply crisis [RFE report] which ended last month, human rights issues remain a primary point of contention between the EU and Russia. In October last year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] issued two decisions [JURIST report] finding Russia in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights [text] in several cases concerning the deaths or abductions of Russian nationals in Chechnya in 2000. In May, the court ruled [JURIST report] that Russia was responsible for the disappearance of a dozen people during Russian armed raids in Chechnya in 2002 and 2003. In July 2007, the court ruled that Russian authorities were responsible for the shooting deaths of 11 unarmed Chechen civilians, and in June 2007 it held that Russian authorities were liable for the 2003 deaths of four Chechen family members [JURIST reports].






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