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Legal news from Friday, June 25, 2010




UN announces opening of new Kenya courtroom for piracy trials
Hillary Stemple on June 25, 2010 3:43 PM ET

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[JURIST] The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] on Friday announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom in Kenya [press release] that will hear maritime piracy cases as well as cases involving other serious criminal offenses. The courtroom, opened on Thursday, was funded through contributions the UNODC received from donor states including Australia, Canada, Germany, France, the EU and the US. The UNODC announced last week [JURIST report] that donor states will spend more than USD $9.3 million to fund courts in Kenya and Seychelles that prosecute suspected Somali pirates [JURIST news archive]. The Kenyan government announced in April that it would no longer accept [JURIST report] Somali pirate cases due to its overburdened legal system and the lack of support that had been promised by the international community. Kenya resumed the adjudication of piracy cases in May after being reassured it would receive additional support. Kenya currently has 123 suspected pirates awaiting trial, the highest number of any country that has agreed to hear piracy cases. Kenyan courts have convicted and sentenced 18 pirates since agreeing to assist in the prosecution of piracy cases. A spokesperson for the UNODC praised Kenya's role in fighting piracy stating, "Kenya has taken on a heavy burden in dealing with a crime that affects the entire international community."

The international community has been supporting actions taken against maritime piracy. The UNODC announced in May that Seychelles would create [JURIST report] a UN-supported center to prosecute suspected pirates. In April, the UN Security Council approved a resolution [JURIST report] calling on member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws and urging Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] to consider an international tribunal for prosecuting piracy. The Security Council resolution came the same week the UN announced that a trust fund established to combat piracy will be funding five projects [UN News Centre report] aimed at piracy committed in the waters around Somalia. The US is also involved in the prosecution of pirates. In May, nine Somali men accused of piracy and other charges by federal prosecutors pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] at their arraignment. Trials for the accused pirates are scheduled for July but may be delayed until September.




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Federal appeals court reinstates stem cell research funding challenge
Hillary Stemple on June 25, 2010 2:48 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday reinstated [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's decision to ease restrictions [JURIST report] on stem cell research [JURIST news archive]. The lawsuit was originally dismissed [JURIST report] by the district court in October for lack of standing. The plaintiffs argued that their ability to obtain funding for adult stem cell research was harmed by increased competition for the funds after President Barack Obama signed an executive order [JURIST report] permitting federal funds to be used for research on embryonic stem cells as well as adult stem cells. Under the guidelines issued in accordance with the executive order, federal funding may be used for embryonic stem cells obtained from embryos that were created to be used in fertility clinics but were no longer needed and would have been discarded. The court held that a party competing for a governmental benefit can assert competitor standing when the government takes steps that would benefit a competitor, causing harm to the party. The panel ruled that plaintiffs meet the basic requirement for standing and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. The appeals court refused to consider the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the executive order.

The new guidelines reversed previous rules that limited government funding of embryonic stem cells to only cell lines that were in existence as of August 2001. Despite pressure from the scientific community, the previous administration refused similar changes to funding guidelines. In 2007, then-president George W. Bush vetoed [JURIST report] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 [S 5 materials], which was intended to relax funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The administration rejected the bill, saying it would compel taxpayers to support the destruction of human embryos. In 2006, Bush vetoed a previous version [JURIST report] of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Senate to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, saying he would not provide federal funding for stem cell research because many consider the destruction of embryos to be murder.




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Romania high court rules pension cuts unconstitutional
Hillary Stemple on June 25, 2010 1:23 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Romanian Constitutional Court [official website, in Romanian] on Friday ruled that a government plan to reduce pension funds by 15 percent was unconstitutional, jeopardizing a pending billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) [official website] needed to stabilize the Romanian economy. The planned decrease in the pension fund was part of a larger package of benefit reforms enacted in order to limit the budget deficit to the 6.8 percent required to qualify for the loan. Also included in the reforms was a 25 percent decrease in wages for public sector jobs, which the court upheld as constitutional. Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc [official website, in Romanian] indicated that the government is working to create a new reform package [press release, in Romanian] in order to ensure that the loan can be dispersed as scheduled. The government may consider tax increases in order to meet the loan requirements, a measure that was considered [Business Week report] before the current reforms were implemented. The IMF is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss whether the loan should be dispursed.

The Greek government was recently forced to implement similar austerity measures after suffering an economic crisis [BBC backgrounder] that threatened to destabilize the international economy. Last month, the EU and IMF announced a €110 billion bailout package for Greece, which was subsequently approved by euro-zone leaders [BBC report]. Last month, Germany's Constitutional Court [official website, in German] refused to issue a temporary injunction [judgment, in German; JURIST report] against the German government's €22.4 billion contribution to the bailout fund. The suit, brought by four lawyers and a businessman, claimed that the contribution would violate Germany's constitutional law.




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Rights group urges Hamas to allow access to Israeli soldier
Sarah Miley on June 25, 2010 12:49 PM ET

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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Friday urged [press release] Hamas [JURIST news archive] authorities to allow captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit [advocacy website, in Hebrew; BBC backgrounder] to communicate with his family and receive visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website]. Shalit was captured in 2006 by Palestinian militants during a raid on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] post near the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel. HRW claims that Hamas is violating the laws of war by blocking all access to Shalit. The advocacy group also stated that Hamas' actions are deemed cruel and inhuman and may amount to torture. HRW's statement echoed concerns included in a statement released earlier this month by ICRC [JURIST report] calling Shalit's "incommunicado detention" a violation of international humanitarian law. Since his incarceration more than four years ago, Hamas has passed on only three letters from him, a voice recording and a short video. Hamas officials hold that allowing outside access to Shalit would alert the Israeli government to his location, which would lead to armed attacks if Shalit's release could not be negotiated. Hamas has refused to release Shalit until Israel releases hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were arrested in retaliation of Shalit's prolonged captivity.

In an attempt to pressure Hamas into releasing Shalit, the Israeli Cabinet voted last year to deny Hamas prisoners privileges not required by law, such as education, entertainment and some visitation. The policy places strict limits on family visits and money transfers, as well as removes opportunities for prisoners to take high school and university classes. The new rules were enacted after a failed negotiation over Shalit's release, which led to the seizure of several Hamas officials by Israel forces [JURIST report], including Palestinian Cabinet ministers and lawmakers. Several third-party nations, especially Egypt have attempted to mediate [JURIST report] negotiations between the neighboring nations, but none has come to fruition. In September, the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website] also chided Hamas [JURIST report] for Shalit's incommunicado detention in a controversial report covering last year's Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in the Gaza Strip. The report stated that the mistreatment of Shalit was a potential war crime and called for Hamas officials to allow access to the incarcerated soldier.




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US House, Senate reconcile financial reform bills
Hillary Stemple on June 25, 2010 12:07 PM ET

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[JURIST] Members of the US Senate and House of Representatives [official websites] on Friday reached an agreement on the financial reform bills [HR 4173 materials; S 3217 materials] passed by each chamber, which focus on increasing regulation in the financial sector following the recent economic crisis [JURIST news archive]. The reconciled bill creates a new regulatory council to monitor financial institutions in order to prevent the companies from becoming "too big to fail." It also gives the Federal Reserve [official website] the power to supervise the largest financial companies and report to the government any risks the firms may pose to the economy at large. Additionally, a new consumer protection division will be established within the Federal Reserve to enforce rules against certain business practices like abusive mortgage lending and some credit card practices. As a final protection against future bailouts, the government will have the ability to seize and liquidate failing financial institutions before their collapse can have an adverse affect on the entire economy. The so-called "Volcker Rule" is included in the final bill, but instead of prohibiting banks from owning hedge funds, banks will be permitted to invest up to 3 percent of their capital into hedge funds or private equity funds. The final bill also includes regulation of some derivatives, requiring that they be bought and sold through clearinghouses or exchanges. US President Barack Obama [official website] applauded the reconciliation efforts [press release] and commented on the important nature of the reforms, stating, "[t]he reforms making their way through Congress will hold Wall Street accountable so we can help prevent another financial crisis like the one that we're still recovering from." The House and Senate are expected to vote on the final bill next week.

The Senate approved its version of the financial reform bill last month, after the House passed its version [JURIST reports] in December. The Senate Banking Committee [official website] proposed a bill [text, PDF; JURIST report] in 2009 that was met with resistance and resulted in the committee's development of the bill ultimately passed by the Senate. One provision in the bill that has been the source of much debate is the creation of a consumer protection agency. The House Financial Services Committee [official website] had approved a bill to create the agency in October, after originally delaying [JURIST reports] it at the behest of financial industry leaders in July. The creation of the agency is a key step in achieving the Obama administration's stated goal of tightening financial industry regulations. Last June, the administration proposed a broad series of regulatory reforms [press release; JURIST report] aimed at restoring confidence in the US financial system.




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UN launches global commission on HIV and the law
Sarah Miley on June 25, 2010 11:33 AM ET

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[JURIST] The UN Development Programme (UNDP), in coordination with the UNAIDS Secretariat [official websites], on Thursday launched the Global Commission on HIV and the Law [press release] in order to better understand the role played by the law in facilitating universal access to AIDS prevention and treatment. The commission is charged with developing "actionable and evidence-informed recommendations" to create national legal environments with effective and efficient HIV/AIDS responses. The commission will address some of the most challenging HIV legal issues, including the criminalization of HIV/AIDS transmission and behavioral practices such as drug use and sexual activity. UNDP Administrator Helen Clark highlighted the need for such an investigation [transcript] in order create legal frameworks to support AIDS prevention and treatment:
It has ... become increasingly clear that successes in responding to HIV can only reach the required scale if they are underpinned by legal, regulatory and social environments which advance human rights, gender equality, and social justice goals. ... Sadly, however, in many places social and legal challenges to human rights are undermining efforts to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support. ... While the number of countries with specific laws to protect people living with HIV from discrimination has increased since 2003, one third of countries still lack them. Where they do exist, such laws often are not enforced. ... There is an abundance of anecdotal evidence, and an ever increasing body of documentation, on human rights abuses stemming from punitive laws, policies, practices, stigma, and discrimination. We need now to move from anecdote to evidence on the impact of these abuses on HIV, public health, and development outcomes. That evidence will help advance effective HIV/AIDS responses and generate political will to bring about the needed changes.
The commission will be composed of an international panel of experts and will hold regional hearings in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe to ensure that it hears from all affected communities and policy-makers. The commission is expected to complete the inquiry by December 2011.

UNAIDS has repeatedly urged policy changes in the 51 countries and areas that still bar entry to individuals with HIV/AIDS. In April, the Chinese government lifted a ban on entry [JURIST report] for individuals with HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. The ban had temporarily been lifted [JURIST report] for international events, such as the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, but the inconvenience that resulted, as well as the increased knowledge of how HIV/AIDS is spread, were reasons cited by the government as factors for changing the law. The US lifted its 22 year-old entry ban [JURIST report] in January when the Centers for Disease Control [official website] removed HIV/AIDS from its list of communicable diseases of public significance. UNAIDS strongly opposes any laws that restrict movement based on HIV-positive status, holding that such restrictions are discriminatory and do not prevent HIV transmission or protect public health.




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Germany court recognizes 'right to die'
Sarah Miley on June 25, 2010 10:40 AM ET

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[JURIST] The German Federal Court of Justice [official website, in German] on Friday ruled that removing a patient from life support is not a criminal offense [judgment, in German] if the terminal individual had previously given consent. The landmark ruling legalized [press release, in German] the right to die [JURIST news archive] and overturned the nine-month sentence of a lawyer who was convicted last year for advising a client to remove her mother from life support after being in a coma since 2002. Before slipping into the coma, the patient had told her daughter she did not want her life to be prolonged artificially. Upon the lawyer's advice, the daughter had removed the gastric tube keeping her mother alive. The hospital was able to reinsert the feeding tube, but the patient died of heart failure two weeks later. Both the lawyer the daughter were charged with attempted manslaughter, but the daughter was previously acquitted by a district court. The ruling only legalizes the right to die through the passive assistance of removing a patient from life support. Other "active" forms of assistance are still punishable by up to five years in prison.

The right to die has been a highly contentious issue around the world. In August, the Supreme Court of Western Australia [official website] upheld the right to die [JURIST report] in a case involving a quadriplegic who asked to be removed from food and hydration services. Last July, the UK Law Lords asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to clarify [JURIST report] the UK's laws regarding those who aid patients seeking assisted suicide. Many Britons have reportedly gone to the Dignitas clinic [website, in German] in Switzerland to obtain assisted suicides. The House of Lords in July rejected a bill [JURIST report] that would would have barred prosecuting those who go abroad to help others commit assisted suicide. In May 2009, the South Korean Supreme Court [official website, in Korean] upheld a lower court ruling allowing a brain-damaged patient the right to die. The judge held that, for future cases, doctors should make efforts to confirm patients' wishes to die with dignity and that such determinations can be deduced from an analysis of different factors.




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Pakistan court sentences Americans to prison on terrorism charges
Ann Riley on June 25, 2010 9:41 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Thursday sentenced five Americans to 10 years in prison for plotting attacks on Pakistan. Waqar Hussain Khan, Ahmed Minni, Ramy Zamzam, Aman Yemer and Umar Farooq, all students from the Washington, DC metro area, were convicted [AP report] of criminal conspiracy and funding a banned terrorist organization and will carry out the respective ten-year and five-year sentences concurrently. According to Deputy Prosecutor Rana Bakhtiar, the five men, facing life in prison, were acquitted [Reuters report] of additional charges of planning war against Pakistan, directing others to launch attacks and attempting to cross the Afghan border illegally. US State Department (DOS) [official website] spokesperson Mark Toner said the US respected Pakistan's right to conduct such judicial proceedings [press briefing] but did not comment on the ongoing legal process, as the defense is expected to appeal the decision.

Prosecutors claimed that e-mail records and witness statements supported the allegations that the five men, arrested in Pakistan in December, were planning attacks [Washington Post report] against a nuclear plant, an air base and targets in Afghanistan and US territories. The men are committed to appeal the decision [Washington Post report] and contend that they were on their way to Afghanistan to participate in humanitarian work, while additionally claiming that they were tortured by FBI agents and Pakistani authorities. Their arrest highlights a growing concern of US citizens' involvement with extremist groups and homegrown terrorists. Thursday's verdict comes the same week as Pakistani-born US citizen Faisal Shahzad [BBC profile] pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to 10 counts of terrorism and weapons charges [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] relating to last month's attempted car bombing in New York City's Times Square.




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US House approves campaign finance reform legislation
Hillary Stemple on June 25, 2010 9:30 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Thursday voted 219 to 206 [roll call] to approve legislation [HR 5175 materials] aimed at decreasing the ability of corporations and other special interest groups to influence elections. The bill, known as the Disclose Act, was developed in response to the January US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report], which eased restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations. If signed into law, the bill would prohibit corporations receiving federal contracts worth more than $7 million from spending money on "electioneering communications" and would also prohibit foreign-controlled domestic corporations from financing campaigns. Corporations donating money to political campaigns would be required to file a certification with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) [official website] indicating they are legally able to make such donations. The bill exempts § 501(c)(4) [text] organizations with more than 500,000 members, which will allow organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Sierra Club [advocacy websites] to continue financing campaigns. The bill's primary author, Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) [official website] praised its passage [press release] and indicated the Senate would be addressing the matter soon, stating:
Passage of the bipartisan DISCLOSE Act is truly a victory for the American people, who have a right to know which organizations are spending millions to influence their vote and who is funding that effort. I applaud my colleagues for supporting this bill, which addresses the very serious threats to our democracy created by the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, and I and look forward to the Senate taking up the legislation in short order.
Republican opponents of the bill call it "unconstitutional" [press release] and "misguided." It is unclear when the Senate will take up the issue of campaign finance reform, although Van Hollen indicated that he had been assured [press release] of the Senate's commitment to the bill.

Senate Democrats introduced a similar bill [text, PDF; JURIST report] in April after the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] held hearings [JURIST report] in March on the effects of the Citizens United decision. In Citizens United, the court struck down Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act [text, PDF], which prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. President Barack Obama sharply criticized [JURIST report] the decision in his State of the Union Address [transcript] in January. Obama warned of the increased potential for powerful interest groups, both foreign and domestic, to wield excessive influence over American elections and called for bipartisan support of legislation to counteract the decision. The decision has caused a deep partisan divide [CNN report] over the topic, with Democratic officials largely opposing the decision, and Republican officials mostly in support.




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Rwanda doctor arrested in Gabon on genocide charges
Ann Riley on June 25, 2010 8:29 AM ET

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[JURIST] Gabon police arrested Rwandan doctor Jean-Chrysostome Ndindabahizi [INTERPOL warrant] on charges of conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and murder in connection to the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder, JURIST news archive], according to Rwandan National Public Prosecution Authority [official website] spokesperson Augustin Nkusi on Thursday. Witnesses say Ndindabahizi was working as a doctor at Butare University Hospital in 1994 and participated in planning meetings [New Times report] prior to the genocide. Ndindabahizi's indictment was prepared and sent to the Gabonese government in January 2009. According to Gabonese presidency spokesperson Guy Bertrand, Ndindabahizi was handed over [Reuters report] to INTERPOL [official website], as Gabon has no extradition treaty with Rwanda. Ndindabahizi could face trial in Rwanda or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive], established for the prosecution of high-level officials responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law during the Rwandan genocide.

Earlier this month, the ICTR transferred [JURIST report] the cases of 25 suspects to Rwandan authorities, following strategic steps to complete [completion strategy text, PDF] the court's trial work by 2011. In April, Rwandan authorities arrested [JURIST report] opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza [campaign website], accusing her of denying the genocide and collaborating with terrorists. In March, an aid to Ingabire who had been convicted in absentia, pleaded guilty to genocide charges [JURIST report] in exchange for a reduced prison sentence of 17 years. Also in March, the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR affirmed the genocide conviction [JURIST report] of popular Rwandan singer-songwriter Simon Bikindi [Trial Watch profile]. The court also reversed the conviction for counts of genocide, murder and extermination against Rwandan district attorney Simeon Nchamihigo. Additionally, the widow of assassinated Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, Agathe Habyarimana, was arrested [JURIST report] in France on suspicions of complicity in genocide and was later released on bail. In January, the Rwandan government released a report [JURIST report] concluding that the assassination of then-president Juvenal Habyarimana, which sparked the genocide, was the work of Hutu extremists. The ICTR continues its work to prosecute those most responsible for the Rwandan genocide, in which nearly 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, were killed.




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Blagojevich judge refuses to delay trial after Supreme Court 'honest services' ruling
Sarah Miley on June 25, 2010 8:15 AM ET

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[JURIST] A federal judge on Thursday denied a request to delay the corruption trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive] in order for his defense lawyers to review a decision by US Supreme Court [official website] limiting the scope of the federal honest services fraud statute [18 USC § 1346 text]. Blagojevich is currently facing several honest services fraud charges for allegedly conspiring to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by US President Barack Obama [official website] after his election. Judge James Zagel of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] held that the trial delay was unnecessary because the Supreme Court's decision in Skilling v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] was unlikely to affect Blagojevich's case. The Supreme Court held in Skilling that the honest services law is not unconstitutionally vague under a limited construction of the statute and was only applicable to the protection of intangible rights of honest service deprived through bribery and kickbacks. Last month, the Supreme Court denied [JURIST report] Blagojevich's request to postpone the start of his trial until tit issued opinions in cases involving the honest services statute. In anticipation of a potential void for vagueness ruling Skilling, the prosecution also charged Blagojevich with racketeering, attempted extortion, bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit extortion.

In April, the prosecution was ordered [JURIST report] to release a 91-page government proffer outlining evidence in its case against Blagojevich. According to the proffer, Blagojevich tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by Obama, made appointments based on anticipated campaign contributions and took kickbacks from a number of companies. In March, Blagojevich pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to eight amended corruption charges. In January 2009, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously [JURIST report] to convict Blagojevich of abuse of power and remove him from office. Blagojevich and his former chief of staff John Harris were initially arrested [JURIST report] in December 2008.




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Europe court finds no right to same-sex marriage
Dwyer Arce on June 25, 2010 7:31 AM ET

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[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ruled [judgment; press release] 4-3 that the European Convention on Human Rights [text] does not mandate that member states recognize same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive]. The applicants, an Austrian same-sex couple, argued that their country's prohibition on same-sex marriage violated their rights under the Article 8 right to private and family life, the Article 12 right to marry and the Article 14 prohibition against discrimination. They contended that because of social changes, marriage is no longer an institution aimed at procreation and the education of children and is instead a "union of two persons which encompassed all aspects of their lives." The Austrian government argued that because of the wording of Article 12 and the lack of European consensus on the issue, the court should uphold the ban on same-sex marriage. The UK government intervened in favor of Austria, arguing that there was no reason to depart from ECHR case law in Austria's favor. Four non-governmental organizations intervened as well, arguing that denying marriage to same-sex couples was discriminatory and that the prohibition could not be rationally justified. In rejecting the applicants' argument and finding no violation of the convention, the court noted that only six of 47 states party to the convention had legalized same-sex marriage, stating:
The Court cannot but note that there is an emerging European consensus towards legal recognition of same-sex couples. Moreover, this tendency has developed rapidly over the past decade. Nevertheless, there is not yet a majority of States providing for legal recognition of same-sex couples. The area in question must therefore still be regarded as one of evolving rights with no established consensus, where States must also enjoy a margin of appreciation in the timing of the introduction of legislative changes[.]
Three judges dissented, agreeing with the majority as to the Article 12 claim but dissenting with regard to Articles 8 and 14.

The applicants were denied a marriage license by Austrian authorities in 2002 due to a law that allows only opposite-sex couples to enter into marriage contracts. The Austrian Constitutional Court [official website] dismissed the applicants' complaint the following year, causing the applicants to bring the case to the ECHR in 2004. Earlier this month, a German court ruled that a same-sex marriage performed abroad must be recognized as a registered partnership [JURIST report] in Germany. Also in June, the Icelandic Althingi [official website, in Icelandic] unanimously passed legislation [JURIST report] legalizing same-sex marriage. Last month, Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva [official website, in Portuguese] signed a bill [JURIST report] that legalized same-sex marriage but stopped short of allowing same-sex couples to adopt. Same-sex marriage is also recognized in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway [JURIST reports], while several other countries, including the UK, France and Austria recognize civil unions between same-sex partners. Same-sex marriage has also been recognized nationwide in Canada and South Africa and in certain jurisdictions in Mexico and the US [JURIST reports].




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