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Legal news from Thursday, November 4, 2010




ICTY delays Karadzic trial for one month
Sarah Posner on November 4, 2010 2:25 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Wednesday suspended [press release] the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] for a month. The postponement allows Karadzic to read 14,000 pages of evidence the prosecution sent to him in October. Karadzic faces 11 war crimes charges, including counts of genocide and murder, for alleged crimes he committed during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Karadzic is defending himself in court and has denied all of the charges against him. The court's decision to delay the trial is partially because of the prosecution's repeated violations of its obligation to disclose evidence to the accused. The ICTY's press release states:
Having already admonished the Prosecution in those previous decisions to better organise and give greater priority to its disclosure processes, Judge Kwon stated that the Chamber was increasingly troubled by the potential cumulative effect of late disclosure on the overall fairness of the trial.
The trial's suspension will take affect after the witnesses already at The Hague or in transit have the chance to testify in court.

In September, the trial resumed [JURIST report] as Karadzic defended himself before the ICTY after repeated attempts to delay proceedings. The trial previously resumed in April [JURIST report], after the ICTY denied [judgment PDF, JURIST report] Karadzic's attempt [motion, PDF] to delay court proceedings, in which he argued a violation of his right to a fair hearing due to the court's rejection of evidentiary challenges. In March, Karadzic lost another motion to postpone his war crimes trial for charges committed during the Bosnia conflict. Following repeated delays in the proceedings, the ICTY judges warned in September that the trial might continue until 2014 [JURIST report], which is two years longer than expected.




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UK PM announces review of intellectual property laws
Megan McKee on November 4, 2010 1:21 PM ET

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[JURIST] UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced Thursday that Britain's intellectual property laws will undergo a review with an eye towards modernization, in an effort to encourage innovation and small business. Cameron suggested that the law may be reformed [BBC report] in order to allow for increased use of copyright material without the owner's permission. The review is set to take place over six months and will examine the interaction between intellectual property and competition law, how to remove barriers for small businesses, and how to help small businesses protect and exploit their intellectual property, and it will take into account more relaxed US rules on copyright material, including rules on the use of copyright material without the owner's permission. In April, the review will issue a report recommending changes to UK law and suggesting long-term goals for the government. The announcement, seen as an attempt to restore balance after the controversial Digital Economy Bill [text], has been cheered by Internet freedom campaigners and small businesses alike. However, reforms may be resisted by the music and film industries.

In April, the UK Parliament [official website] approved the Digital Economy Bill [JURIST report], authorizing the suspension of Internet service for those who repeatedly download copyrighted material illegally. The act also received Royal Assent [text] and is now law. The new law calls on Internet service providers (ISPs) to block download sites, reduce a user's broadband speeds and ultimately shut down a user's Internet access in order to prevent piracy of copyrighted materials. The bill, known as a three-strikes law, imposes stricter penalties on repeat digital offenders than had previously existed, and has received a great deal of public criticism. Certain ISPs have even threatened not to comply with the law, but MPs who support it say it is a necessary step to protect the creators of digital content.




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Federal prosecutors charge 3 men with funding Somalia terrorist organization
Aman Kakar on November 4, 2010 12:52 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US District Court Eastern District of Missouri [official website] on Wednesday unsealed an indictment [text, PDF] charging three men with providing material support to Somali-based Islamic terrorist organization al Shabaab [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The October 21 indictment charges Mohamud Abdi Yusuf, Duane Mohamed Diriye and Abdi Mahdi Hussein with funding and providing materials to a known terrorist organization. The federal grand jury charged Yusuf and Hussein with allegedly transferring funds through a Minneapolis wire-transfer business where Hussein was employed to al Shabaab supporters in Somalia from 2008 to July 2009. The indictment details the care the men took to avoid detection, often breaking up transfers into smaller amounts and using code words. Diriye, who is believed to be in Kenya or Somalia, was charged with collecting the funds for al Shabaab. The indictment also mentions unspecified individuals who were allegedly complicit in the conspiracy to provide funding to the organization. Federal agents arrested [AP Report] Yusuf on Monday in St. Louis and Hussein on Tuesday in Minneapolis. Both men appeared in court on Tuesday. Hussein has since been released on bond. The indictments were unsealed the day after three other men were charged [indictment, PDF] in San Diego with providing support to al Shabaab.

The government has increasingly targeted financial transactions in an effort to dry up funding for terrorist organizations. In September, a New York man was charged with providing funds [JURIST report] to a man who attempted in May to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. The indictment alleges that Mohammad Younis unknowingly transferred funds to individuals, including Faisal Shahzad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], through hawala, a "value transfer system in which money does not physically cross international boundaries through the banking system." In August, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced that 14 individuals had been charged with providing money and funding to al Shabaab [JURIST report]. In April 2009, an Afghan man was charged financing terrorist activity [JURIST report]. Haji Juma Khan, who was already detained on charges of narco-terrorism, was accused of providing the Taliban [JURIST news archive] with proceeds from his drug operation with knowledge that the money would be used in terrorist activities in Afghanistan.




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Federal judge dismisses claims challenging drilling moratorium
Maureen Cosgrove on November 4, 2010 12:13 PM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] on Wednesday dismissed claims challenging the Obama Administration's moratorium on deepwater drilling, which was enacted following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in the Gulf of Mexico. US District Judge Martin Feldman said that the claims filed by drilling companies against US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar [official profile] are no longer relevant [Bloomberg report] because both moratoriums have been lifted. Salazar announced in October [JURIST report] that the six-month moratorium on certain types of deepwater oil drilling would come to an end [press release] some seven weeks ahead of schedule. In announcing the lifting of the moratorium, Salazar said that new drilling regulations enacted in October [JURIST report] and industry safety strategies developed in the wake of the oil spill have reduced the likelihood of future incidents such that the ban was no longer needed. Feldman did not rule on additional claims filed by against the government, which allege that federal regulators have delayed the granting of permits under the new regulations and that new regulations requiring permits exceed the authority of the administrators. The government has indicated that permits will be granted when drilling companies comply with the stated standards [NYT report]. The court is scheduled to address the remaining claims later this month.

In September, Feldman denied [order, PDF; JURIST report] the government's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services [corporate website] and several other drilling companies challenging the government's most recent moratorium on offshore drilling. The second moratorium directive was issued in July [JURIST report] by Salazar after the district court and the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] granted an injunction [JURIST report] against the government's initial directive. Earlier in July, the Obama administration asked a federal appeals court to reinstate the original six-month drilling moratorium [JURIST report], arguing that the ban should be upheld because the government would likely win its appeal of the lower court's ruling. In June, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] asked the court of appeals to stay the preliminary injunction of the original moratorium [JURIST report] on the basis that another deepwater spill could overwhelm the ongoing efforts to clean up the spill with catastrophic results. Lawyers for the DOJ also claimed that that the district judge abused his discretion in issuing the injunction. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a result of an oil well blowout that caused an explosion 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. More than 120 million gallons of oil leaked from the rig's broken pipe causing the spill to surpass the Exxon Valdez [JURIST news archive] as the worst oil spill in US history.




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Afghanistan AG opens voter fraud investigation
Andrea Bottorff on November 4, 2010 11:33 AM ET

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[JURIST] Afghanistan's Attorney General's (AG) office announced Wednesday it will investigate possible voter fraud committed by the country's election commission after the parliamentary election [IEC backgrounder] held in September. A deputy attorney general said that the office has received complaints [WP report] that election officials working for the Independent Election Commission (IEC) [official website], which is responsible for investigating complaints of voter fraud in the country, allegedly tampered with voting results. The AG's office expressed concern that the IEC did not provide sufficient reason for last month's invalidation of 1.3 million votes, constituting nearly one-fourth of the 5.6 million votes cast nationwide [AP report]. The ballots were thrown out [JURIST report] due to alleged findings by the IEC that the 2,543 polling stations involved did not follow IEC procedures. The new investigation may also involve a second Afghan election monitoring organization, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website], which is also responsible for invalidating ballots [media release, PDF] and disqualifying political candidates. IEC officials argue that the AG's office does not have authority to investigate voting fraud [CP report], but the AG's office emphasized their responsibility to investigate crime and eliminate corruption.

The election was held in September after being postponed by four months [BBC report] due to logistical and security concerns and was contested by 2,500 candidates competing for the 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan parliament. Following the disputed 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive], the ECC invalidated results from 210 polling stations [JURIST report]. The ECC found clear and convincing evidence of fraud and also ordered the IEC to invalidate a percentage of votes from both candidates. In April, Karzai blamed foreign officials for the extensive irregularities [JURIST report] that occurred during the presidential election. Though admitting that fraud was widespread, Karzai accused UN and EU representatives of attempting to influence vote counts. In November 2009, Karzai was declared the winner of the election [JURIST report] after challenger Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile] withdrew from the runoff election due to his belief that a free and fair vote was impossible.




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EU calls for stronger Internet privacy laws
Drew Singer on November 4, 2010 10:36 AM ET

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[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] on Thursday released a 20-page document [text, PDF] outlining recommendations for stronger Internet privacy laws. The recommendations come after a review of its 15 year-old privacy laws [WP report]. The document addresses issues including "improving the coherence of the data protection legal framework," "enhancing control over one's own data" and "ensuring informed and free consent." If followed, the proposed measures could make it easier for people to delete information about themselves on the Internet and increase enforcement for websites that breach their users' privacy. The writers also argued for why the new measures are necessary:
Like technology, the way our personal data is used and shared in our society is changing all the time. The challenge this poses to legislators is to establish a legislative framework that will stand the test of time. At the end of the reform process, Europe's data protection rules should continue to guarantee a high level of protection and provide legal certainty to individuals, public administrations and businesses in the internal market alike for several generations. No matter how complex the situation or how sophisticated the technology, clarity must exist on the applicable rules and standards that national authorities have to enforce and that businesses and technology developers must comply with. Individuals should also have clarity about the rights they enjoy.
Next year, the Commission will propose legislation aimed at revising the legal framework for data protection, the report says.

In September, the Commission announced that it would refer the UK to the European Court of Justice for not fully complying with EU regulations [JURIST report] that protect the privacy of electronic communications. The EU has found UK law in breach of the ePrivacy Directive 2002/58/EC and the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC [texts], regulations regarding consent to interception and the role of enforcement and supervisory committees. Specifically, current UK law does not provide for an independent national authority to supervise the interception of some communications, it allows for communications to be received without fulfilling the EU definition of consent and it does not have a mechanism that ensures sanctions for unlawful unintentional interception, as required by EU law. The EC formally notified [JURIST report] the UK in April 2009 that it was starting infringement proceedings for failure to follow EU Internet privacy and data protection rules.




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Serbia president apologizes for Croatia war crimes
Jay Carmella on November 4, 2010 9:22 AM ET

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[JURIST] Serbian President Boris Tadic [official website, in Serbian; JURIST news archive] apologized [press release, in Serbian] Thursday for Serbian war crimes during a visit [schedule, in Serbian] to Croatia. Tadic and Croatian President Ivo Josipovic [official website, in Croatian] together visited a memorial in Vukovar [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], where Serbian forces murdered 260 Croatians in November 1991. Tadic said, "I came here to offer an apology and express regret." Tadic becomes the first Serbian president to visit the site [BBC report], as the two countries continue to try to find ways to improve relations. Josipovic and Tadic plan to later visit the site where 18 Serbian villagers were killed by Croatians. Opposition in both countries criticized the visit, calling it nothing more than a political stunt and meaningless.

The challenge of improving the relationship between Serbia and Croatia remains difficult, even as leaders in both countries seem committed to the effort. In August, Croatian authorities extradited Sretko Kalinic to Serbia for his connection with the 2003 assassination [JURIST reports] of former Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic [BBC obituary; memorial website, in Serbian]. However, the continuing attempt to find all individuals responsible for the atrocities has created a new political tension [JURIST comment] in the region that will not soon go away. In January, the Serbian government filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against Croatia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website], accusing the Croatian government of committing genocide during the 1991-1995 Balkan War [JURIST news archive]. The suit was in response to a similar suit [case materials] filed by Croatia against Serbia in 1999.




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Google announces settlement in 'Buzz' privacy class action lawsuit
Erin Bock on November 4, 2010 8:47 AM ET

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[JURIST] Internet company Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive] announced Tuesday that it has reached a settlement [text, PDF] in a class action lawsuit regarding privacy breaches relating to its Google Buzz social networking program. The settlement is in response to a complaint [text, PDF] filed in July alleging that the Buzz application within Gmail exposed private user data, including contact lists, to other Gmail users. Under the settlement, Google will place $8.5 million dollars into a common fund to distribute to organizations that provide education regarding Internet privacy. Google sent out a notice [text, PDF] to all of its Gmail users notifying them of the terms of the settlement and stressing that the settlement does not provide for payment of damages to individual users. The notice advised users that they could opt-out of the settlement by December 6 to pursue further litigation or choose to be included and forfeit that right. The US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] will hold a fairness hearing regarding the settlement on January 31, and users also have the option to contact the court with objections or ask to speak at the hearing. Class members include any Gmail users who were given the opportunity to use Buzz before November 2. Google stressed that the settlement did not mean that the company was admitting liability for the privacy breach and that the company has since resolved all privacy issues with the Buzz application.

Google has also recently come under investigation for privacy breaches relating to its Street View program. On Wednesday, the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) [official website] announced that the company committed a "significant breach" [JURIST report] of the country's Data Protection Act [text] when Street View vehicles inadvertently collected personal information over WiFi networks including passwords, e-mails and URLs. Last week, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] announced that it had ended an inquiry [JURIST report] into the company's internal policies and procedures that led to the breach. Last month, Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart [official website] announced that the Street View breach violated [JURIST report] the country's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act [text, PDF]. In July, Australian authorities completed their investigation [JURIST report] into Google's collection and storage of private data, concluding that the company violated the Australia Privacy Act [government backgrounder]. In August, the South Korean National Police Agency (SKNPA) [official website, in Korean] raided the Google South Korean headquarters [JURIST report] after accusing Google of illegally acquiring user data. Spain also announced in August that it was launching an investigation [JURIST report] into potential violations of the country's privacy law.




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