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Legal news from Saturday, June 20, 2009




Bermuda leader survives non-confidence vote after taking Guantanamo Uighurs
Steve Czajkowski on June 20, 2009 3:57 PM ET

[JURIST] Bermuda Premier Ewart Brown [party profile] Saturday survived a vote of no confidence by Bermuda's lower house of parliament, the House of Assembly [official website], which was seen as an attempt to punish Brown for accepting four Uighur Guantanamo detainees [JURIST report] to the Atlantic island nation last week. The resolution [press release], proposed by members of the opposition United Bermuda Party (UBP) [official website] was rejected 22-10, with all members of Brown's own Progressive Labour Party (PLP) [official website] voting against it. During a 14-hour debate members of the UBP criticized Brown's actions, calling him undemocratic, while members of the PLP demanded that Brown apologize for accepting the detainees without first consulting [Royal Gazette report] his cabinet colleagues, the island's UK-appointed governor Richard Gozney, or the British government in London. Although technically self-governing, Bermuda remains a British Overseas Territory with limited jurisdiction over its foreign and security affairs.

Last week, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [official website] criticized [JURIST report] Brown for failing to consult with London before agreeing to take the four Uighurs [JURIST report]. Brown allegedly considered accepting the Uighurs to be an immigration issue within domestic jurisdiction. A spokesperson for the FCO said Britain would nonetheless help the Bermudan government conduct a security assessment of the detainees.






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EU to create Europe financial regulatory body
Ximena Marinero on June 20, 2009 10:33 AM ET

[JURIST] A European Council [official website] summit meeting [event website] in Brussels concluded on Friday with a resolution [text, PDF] to create a new European financial supervisory and monitoring system. The new system will seek to balance the need of coordinating efforts on financial supervision, particularly in times of crisis, with the autonomy of each member nation over their own financial stability. The Council recommended

that a European System of Financial Supervisors, comprising three new European Supervisory Authorities, be established aimed at upgrading the quality and consistency of national supervision, strengthening oversight of cross border groups through the setting up of supervisory colleges and a establishing a European single rule book applicable to all financial institutions in the Single Market. . . the European Council stresses that decisions taken by the European Supervisory Authorities should not impinge in any way on the fiscal responsibility of Member States.
The Council also underlined its continuing commitment to global regulation and supervision, especially in view of the upcoming September 2009 G20 [backgrounder] economic summit in Pittsburgh, and reaffirmed its readiness to provide "fast temporary support" to the budget of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) [official website].

In February, European members of G20's financial policy body called [JURIST report] for stricter regulation of the financial industry and liberal trade policies to help global economy recovery. At the April meeting of the G20 in London, US President Obama called for global financial reforms [JURIST report].





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UN names Bhutto assassination commission members
Steve Czajkowski on June 20, 2009 9:24 AM ET

[JURIST] A three-member independent commission established by the UN to investigate the assassination [JURIST report] of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] will begin its work on July 1, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] announced [text; press release] Friday. The commission, anticipated since February, will be led by Chilean Ambassador to the UN Heraldo Munoz [official profile], who served as President of the UN Security Council [official website] in January 2004 and currently heads the UN Peacebuilding Commission [official website]. The other two members of the commission are Marzuki Darusman, former Attorney General of Indonesia, and Peter Fitzgerald, a former deputy police commissioner in the Irish National Police who has served with the UN in other capacities. A timetable of six months has been established to complete the fact-finding mission, after which the commission will share its findings with the Secretary General, who will then share the report with the Pakistani Government and the UN Security Council.

In October 2008, Ban said the UN would opt for a fact-finding commission instead of launching a full investigation [JURIST report] as sought by Bhutto supporters. Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack in December 2007 that claimed the lives of at least 20 other people. At that time, Bhutto was the head of the opposition Pakistan People's Party [party website], which was challenging then-Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) [party website] in the lead-up to parliamentary elections. Soon after the events, Musharraf rejected [JURIST report] any UN investigation into the assassination despite calls for an inquiry [JURIST report] by Bhutto's husband and current President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile]. Musharraf blamed Al Qaeda for the killing and said a UN probe was not necessary since there was no suggestion that a outside country had been involved in the killing.






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US House votes to impeach federal judge for sexual harassment, obstruction
Ximena Marinero on June 20, 2009 9:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] Friday approved four separate articles of impeachment [text, PDF] against Judge Samuel Kent [official profile; JURIST news archive] of the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Kent is the first federal judge to be impeached in 20 years, and only the thirteenth federal judge ever to be impeached. No members of the House voted against the resolution that was adopted without amendment and based on an earlier report [text, PDF] of the House Committee on the Judiciary [official website]. Kent's alleged "high crimes and misdemeanors" to be tried in the US Senate [official website] include sexual harassment of his secretary, sexual harassment of his case manager, obstructing a judicial proceeding by making false statements, and making false and misleading statements to federal agents during his investigation. An impeachment conviction would remove Kent from the bench before his resignation date. Kent wrote a letter of resignation [JURIST report] to President Obama earlier this month, but since it is not effective until June 2010, he would continue to receive his salary.

Kent pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to a criminal charge of obstruction of justice in May in a plea agreement [text, PDF] that prevented him from being the first federal judge to go on criminal trial for sexual harassment. He was sentenced [JURIST report] in May to 33 months in prison, and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $6,500 in restitution as part of his plea agreement [text, PDF]. In 2007, the American Bar Association (ABA) [professional association] adopted new policies reforming the Model Code of Judicial Conduct [JURIST report], which for the first time included prohibitions against sexual harassment, although some advocacy groups believe these changes do not go far enough [AP report].






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