JURIST Supported by the University of Pittsburgh
Serious law. Primary sources. Global perspective.
Listen to Paper Chase!

Legal news from Friday, June 26, 2009

Former Serb republic leader transferred to Estonia to serve ICTY sentence
Christian Ehret on June 26, 2009 2:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Croatian Serb wartime leader Milan Martic [case materials; BBC profile] was transferred to Estonia [press release] Friday to serve a 35-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war in Croatia. Martic was convicted and sentenced [case backgrounder, PDF; JURIST report] in 2007 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] for crimes against Croats and others between 1991 and 1994, including "persections, murder, torture, deportation, attacks on civilians and wanton destruction of civilian areas." The ICTY Trial Chamber found that Martic sought to create a unified Serb territory by forcefully removing the non-Serbs from the areas of Croatia under his control, resulting in expelling virtually all of that population. He was also found guilty of ordering rocket attacks which killed seven people and injured 200. The Appeals Chamber of the ICTY affirmed [press release; JURIST report] Martic's conviction and sentence in 2008 following his appeal.

Martic's transfer to Estonia is pursuant to an agreement [text, PDF] between the UN and the Estonian government to enforce ICTY sentences. Martic was originally indicted [text] in July 1995. He spent several years as a fugitive and then surrendered to the ICTY in 2002. His trial began [JURIST report] in December 2005 and ended in January 2007. In the original conviction, the ICTY Trial Chamber found that Martic exercised "absolute authority" over the RSK's Interior Ministry and security forces, and failed to prevent or punish war crime violations, and even encouraged the "widespread and systematic" persecution of Croatian non-Serbs.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Rights group condemns closed Thailand royal defamation trial
Andrew Morgan on June 26, 2009 2:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Friday called for a public trial [press release] for a Thai political activist accused of insulting the royal family. Judge Prommat Toosang on Wednesday ordered [Reuters report] that the trial of Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul [advocacy website] be closed for national security reasons. AI's Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi noted that although the closure of trials is legitimate under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text] and the Thai Constitution [text, in Thai], the government "will have a very difficult time explaining why the trial of someone charged with making an insulting remark could compromise Thailand’s national security." Zafiri said that Prommat's guarantee of a fair trial was inadequate and "simply not verifiable" unless the trial is conducted in public.

Darunee was arrested [The Nation report] last July on charges of violating Thailand's lese majeste [UPI backgrounder] law, which prohibits defaming, insulting, or threatening "King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent." Darunee is accused of denouncing the royal family during a July 2008 speech [video, in Thai] while speaking at a political rally for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) party of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Thaksin was removed from power in 2006 by a military coup and was later as convicted on corruption charges [JURIST reports] by the Supreme Court of Thailand.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Serbian officials charge 17 former Kosovo army members with war crimes
Christian Ehret on June 26, 2009 1:57 PM ET

[JURIST] Serbian prosecutors charged 17 former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Friday for war crimes committed during the war in Kosovo [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The charges include [B92 report] rape, murder, mutilation, and torture resulting from the kidnapping of 159 Serb civilians and others in Gnjilane, Kosovo in 1999. The charges allege the death of 52 Serbs, Roma, and ethnic Albanians. Nine of the 17 KLA members are reportedly in custody while the rest remain at large, including those who ordered the acts. The prosecutor asked for an extended detention for the nine currently in custody, who were arrested during a raid [B92 report] in December 2008, while the remaining members will be tried in absentia.

On Thursday, Bulgarian officials released [press release] former KLA leader Agim Ceku after he was arrested [press release; JURIST report] at the Macedonian border on Tuesday pursuant to an international arrest warrant for Serbian war crimes charges. Ceku, formerly the prime minister of Kosovo, was charged with involvement in the murder of 669 Serbs and 18 others during the Kosovo war. Serbian Minister of Interior Ivica Dacic stated that Ceku's release will "seriously hamper relations between Serbia and Bulgaria," concluding that the countries need to cooperate in the fight against war crimes and terrorism.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Brazil president signs controversial Amazon land privatization bill
Andrew Morgan on June 26, 2009 1:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva [official profile, in Portuguese] on Friday approved a controversial bill [Provisional Measure 458/09 text, in Portuguese] that would allow legal privatization of publicly held Amazon land. The measure is aimed at stabilizing ownership of nearly 260,000 square miles of Amazon land, the contested ownership of which has sparked violence in the region. Da Silva vetoed sections of the bill, which some critics, including legislators [letter, text], environmentalists [Greenpeace press release, in Portugese], and state prosecutors, had argued unjustly rewarded illegal land grabs and failed to distinguish between small farmers and large corporate and absentee landlords. Under the bill, plots over 1,500 hectares would be auctioned off, with a 20-year repayment schedule, while smaller areas would be transferred at little or no cost.

The measure is the latest in Brazilian initiatives that attempt to find a balance between economic development and environmental concerns over Amazon deforestation. Last week, the government announced [Reuters report] a program to pay farmers in the Amazon to reforest cleared land. Last year, Brazil set a goal to reduce Amazon deforestation by 70 percent [BBC report] over the next 10 years.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Senate committee defense budget includes military commission reforms
Andrew Morgan on June 26, 2009 11:42 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] announced Friday the approval [press release] an appropriations bill that would alter the rules of evidence used in military commission trials. The version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 [S 1033 materials], which cleared the committee unanimously, would add language to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF] reforming the use of classified, coerced, and hearsay evidence and allow defendants greater access to exculpatory evidence. Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) [official website] said that the changes were necessary for the military commissions to be considered "regularly constituted courts" within the meaning of the 2006 Supreme Court [official website] decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The bill now moves to the full Senate for approval.

Last month, US President Barack Obama [official website] announced [JURIST report] that he would use the controversial military commissions system to try some Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. The move drew criticism [JURIST report] from human rights groups, which called the plan "fatally flawed," continuing a long line of criticism of the commissions [JURIST report] for admitting some evidence that is barred from federal court, including hearsay or coerced confessions. In January, Obama issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] directing the military prison be closed "as soon as practicable and no later than one year from the date of this order."

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Federal bankruptcy judge approves GM financing motion
Christian Ehret on June 26, 2009 10:40 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal bankruptcy judge on Thursday approved [press release] a motion [text, PDF] to allow General Motors (GM) [corporate website] to borrow $33.3 billion in debtor in possession financing from the US and Canadian governments to finance a new company. Judge Robert Gerber quickly approved the motion [NYT report], allowing the proceedings [case materials] to continue without delay. The motion, which also argues to the sale of GM's assets, contends that the new company, referred to as the "New GM" in court documents, will be a "lynchpin of the domestic automotive industry" and will allow the US to resume being one of the leading automotive manufacturers in the world. The company stressed the importance of the sale in the motion:

The proposed sale is the only viable alternative that will permit the realization of the going concern value of the assets to be sold and effect the transformation of the Purchased Assets to be the foundation for an efficient, productive, and economically viable business that will be competitive and a source of pride and employment for hundreds of thousands of workers. At the same time, it will avoid systemic failure in the automotive industry and other sectors of the economy as well as offer hope for thousands of other businesses and their employees that supply or otherwise are dependent upon the Company, together with the countless communities in which those businesses and their employees are located.

A hearing on the motion for GM's final asset sale planned to be held on June 30 and several interested parties have filed objections.

GM initially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection [JURIST report] on June 1, asking the court to approve measures [press release] that would provide for a smooth transition to the "New GM," including a request for the US and Canadian governments to back existing warranties. The other members of Detroit's "Big Three" automakers have also faced financial troubles recently. Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection [case materials] in April after failing to negotiate the return of $6.9 billion in debt for $2 billion in cash with secured debt holders. Earlier this month, Judge Arthur Gonzales approved [JURIST report] the sale of most of the assets currently held by Chrysler Group to Italian automaker Fiat S.p.A. [corporate websites]. Ford Motor Company [corporate website] is seeking to regain lost market share [WSJ report] while its domestic rivals are involved in bankruptcy proceedings.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Impeached federal judge to resign at end of month
Andrew Morgan on June 26, 2009 9:53 AM ET

[JURIST] Impeached federal judge Samuel Kent [JURIST news archive] on Thursday resigned [press release] from his seat on the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas [official website] effective at the end of June. Kent's resignation comes a day after US Senate [official website] began impeachment trial proceedings [JURIST report] against him, alleging that he sexually harassed his secretary and case manager, obstructed a judicial proceeding by making false statements, and made false and misleading statements to federal agents during his investigation. The articles of impeachment [text, PDF] against Kent were approved [JURIST report] by the US House of Representatives [official website] last week. Kent is the first federal judge to be impeached in 20 years and only the thirteenth federal judge to be impeached.

Earlier this month, Kent submitted a letter of resignation [JURIST report] that would have been effective June 2010, allowing him to collect his $174,000 annual salary and full health benefits until then. In May, Kent pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to obstruction of justice in a plea agreement [text, PDF] that prevented him from facing a criminal trial. Following his plea, he was sentenced [JURIST report] to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $6,500 in restitution.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Honduras president rejects high court order to reinstate fired military leader
Christian Ehret on June 26, 2009 8:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Honduran President Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile] rejected a Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] decision Thursday that called for the reinstatement of a military general whom Zelaya fired Wednesday. Zelaya's decision comes amidst a controversy over a referendum on constitutional change [La Tribuna report, in Spanish] scheduled for Sunday at which the president hopes to gain supporters for drafting a new constitition. Zelaya fired General Romeo Vasquez, who served as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after learning that the military was not supporting his referendum and refused to distribute the ballots. Although Zelaya claims that the constitution currently favors the rich and elite, opponents maintain that the purpose of the change is to allow him to stay in power. The electoral tribunal, Supreme Court, and Parliament are against Zelaya's initiative, claiming that the change would be unconstitutional. The National Congress [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion [La Tribuna report, in Spanish] on Thursday to form a committee to investigate Zelaya's actions, receiving unanimous support from all four parties holding a congressional bench. One lawmaker claimed that Zelaya's intention to stay in power has long been known in the country.

Absent a change allowing him to run for re-election, Zelaya's term ends in 2010. In March, Zelaya announced [JURIST report] that he would conduct a poll to determine the public receptiveness to the referendum. Under his leadership, Honduras has joined Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) [RIE backgrounder] trade bloc, which was founded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In recent years, Chavez and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa [JURIST reports] have succeeded in passing constitutional reforms extending presidential terms and enhancing presidential powers.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Federal judge sets Blagojevich trial for June 2010
Matt Glenn on June 26, 2009 8:27 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] on Thursday set the corruption trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive] for June 3, 2010. Lawyers for two aids indicted with Blagojevich [JURIST report], Alonzo Monk and John Harris, indicated that their clients may agree to plea deals [Chicago Tribune report]. Blagojevich's attorneys said they expect the aids to testify [Chicago Sun-Times report] against the former governor. There will be a general status hearing July 22.

In April, Blagojevich pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to 16 felony counts, including wire fraud, attempted extortion, racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, and making false statements. In January, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously [JURIST report] to convict Blagojevich of abuse of power and remove him from office. Blagojevich is the first Illinois governor to be impeached and removed from office. Blagojevich had boycotted [JURIST report] the impeachment proceedings against him, appearing only at the end of the Senate hearings to make a final plea to remain in office. Blagojevich and Harris were initially arrested [JURIST report] in December.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Berezovsky found guilty of fraud by Russia court
Matt Glenn on June 26, 2009 7:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Self-exiled Russian business tycoon Boris Berezovsky [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was found guilty of fraud in absentia Thursday by a Moscow regional court. The court found [RIA Novosti report] that Berezovsky and his business associate Yuli Dubov embezzled $4.5 million from their LogoVAZ car dealership. The charges [JURIST report], filed last November under the Russian Criminal Code [Article 174 text], stem from a deal arranged between Russian car manufacturers AvtoVAZ [corporate website, in Russian] and LogoVAZ that left 5560 cars unpaid for and resulted in the unauthorized use of approximately $24 million. Prosecutors alleged that Berezovsky and his associates used the money for investments in real estate, stock in media companies, and other expenditures. Berezovsky and Dubov will be sentenced [Moscow Times report] Friday. Prosecutors are seeking a 15-year sentence [RIA Novosit report] for Berezovsky and want him to pay $1.9 million in compensation.

A former associate of Boris Yeltsin and a political opponent of current Russian Prime Minister and former president Vladimir Putin, Berezovsky has been the target of several past criminal proceedings. In March 2008, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] opened an investigation to determine if Berezovsky falsely claimed the country's secret service had targeted him for assassination [JURIST report]. In 2007, he was accused of plotting a coup [JURIST report] against Putin. Berezovsky currently resides in the United Kingdom as a political refugee. Britain has refused Russian extradition requests, leading a Russian court in 2007 to sentence Berezovsky in absentia to six years in prison after he was found guilty [JURIST report] of embezzling 214 million rubles from Russian national airline Aeroflot.

11:50 AM ET: Berezovsky has been sentenced to 13 years.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Financier Stanford pleads not guilty in $7 billion fraud scheme
Benjamin Hackman on June 26, 2009 7:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Billionaire financier Allen Stanford [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Thursday to 21 charges of fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas [official website] but remained in prison overnight. Prosecutors opposed Stanford's release by filing a memorandum in support of detention [text] Thursday that argues Stanford would pose a flight risk if freed from custody. US Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy stayed [Boston Globe report] Stanford’s release on $500,000 bail until Friday so that federal prosecutors could appeal [Financial Times report].

Stanford was indicted [text, PDF; JURIST report] last week on fraud and obstruction charges related to an alleged $7 billion fraud scheme. Through three of his investment companies, Stanford allegedly violated the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Company Act of 1940 [texts]. He was charged [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in February with running a fraudulent investment scheme by selling certificates of deposit on the promise of improbably high interest rates.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia court orders retrial for suspects acquitted of Politkovskaya killing
Benjamin Hackman on June 26, 2009 6:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] on Thursday ordered the retrial of three men acquitted [JURIST report] of involvement in the 2006 shooting death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The court vacated the acquittals [Moscow Times report] of Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov after prosecutors argued the trial judge made procedural errors. A lawyer observing the proceedings said the court's decision was based on the theory that the defense was permitted to put too much pressure on the jury [AP report]. The court ordered the case back [BBC report] to the Moscow Military District Court.

Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov were acquitted in February after a jury found that the evidence against the three was not enough [RIA Novosti report] to support convictions. A week later, prosecutors appealed the acquittals [JURIST report]. In November 2008, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office [official website, in Russian] requested a new judge [JURIST report], claiming that Moscow Military District Court judge Yevgeny Zubov had violated procedural rules. Zubov refused to recuse himself [JURIST report] from the trial. Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov were arrested [JURIST report] in August 2007 in connection with Politkovskaya's slaying.

Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

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


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

Get JURIST legal news delivered daily to your e-mail!


Add Paper Chase legal news to your RSS reader or personalized portal:
  • Add to Google
  • Add to My Yahoo!
  • Subscribe with Bloglines
  • Add to My AOL


Subscribe to Paper Chase by e-mail. JURIST offers a free once-a-day digest [sample]. Enter your e-mail address below. After subscribing and being returned to this page, please check your e-mail for a confirmation message.

R|mail e-mails individual Paper Chase posts through the day. Enter your e-mail address below. After subscribing and being returned to this page, please check your e-mail for a confirmation message.


Join top US law schools, federal appeals courts, law firms and legal organizations by publishing Paper Chase legal news on your public website or intranet.

JURIST offers a news ticker and preformatted headline boxes updated in real time. Get the code.

Feedroll provides free Paper Chase news boxes with headlines or digests precisely tailored to your website's look and feel, with content updated every 15 minutes. Customize and get the code.


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.


Paper Chase welcomes comments, tips and URLs from readers. E-mail us at JURIST@jurist.org