[JURIST] German President Horst Koehler [official website, in German] on Friday signed the EU reform treaty, known as the Lisbon Treaty [EU materials; text], completing the country's problematic ratification process. The signature was the final step for ratification, after the Bundesrat [official website] gave final approval [JURIST report] earlier this week to a bill [text, PDF, in German] setting out the process for ratification. Although both houses of Germany's parliament had previously approved the treaty [JURIST report], the German Constitutional Court [official website, in German] ruled [judgment; JURIST report] in June that the treaty could not be ratified without certain parliamentary reforms ensuring Germany's sovereignty. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso thanked [DPA report] Germany for ratifying the treaty, calling it an "important step towards more capacity to act, democratic accountability and influence at global level."
[JURIST] The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday upheld the admissibility [judgment, PDF; press release] of the case against former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga [Trial Watch profile]. Katanga had argued that charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against him should be dropped because he was being tried for the same crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder], and that the ICC case violated the principle of complementarity. The appeals chamber upheld the trial chamber's June dismissal [press release] of Katanga's challenge on the grounds that the there were no domestic proceedings against him at the time the charges were filed, and that subsequent investigations did not result in domestic charges. Noting that the aim of the Rome Statute [text, pdf] establishing the ICC is to ensure that "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished," the court said:
The Chamber must nevertheless stress that the complementarity principle, as enshrined in the Statute, strikes a balance between safeguarding the primacy of domestic proceedings vis-à-vis the International Criminal Court on the one hand, and the goal of the Rome Statute to "put an end to impunity" on the other hand. If States do not or cannot investigate and, where necessary, prosecute, the International Criminal Court must be able to step in.
In September 2008, the trial chamber confirmed [JURIST report] the charges against Katanga. He surrendered to the ICC and was transferred to the detention facility in the Hague in October 2007 after a warrant [text, pdf, in French] was issued for his arrest in July 2007. Former rebel leaders Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo [JURIST news archives] are also on trial at the ICC for their alleged involvement in atrocities committed in the DRC and neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder]. Another alleged rebel leader, Bosco Ntaganda [Trial Watch profile] remains at large.
[JURIST] The trial of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert [official profile; JURIST news archive] opened Friday on charges of fraud and corruption that led to his resignation last year. Olmert is accused of illegally accepting cash contributions from American businessman Moshe Talansky, double billing [JURIST reports] travel expenses to the state and charitable donors, and giving his former law partner Uri Messer access to state information. The judge from the Jerusalem District Court postponed the trial [Jerusalem Post report] until February 22 to allow Olmert to gather evidence necessary for his defense. Olmert denied [BBC report] the allegations, saying that he was confident that he would be acquitted. If convicted, Olmert faces up to five years in prison on each count. His is the first criminal trial [Haaretz report] of a current or former Israeli prime minister in the nation's history.
[JURIST] The UK High Court on Friday upheld [judgment text] a law that permits mandatory retirement policies for workers who reach the age of 65, but said that there is a "compelling" case for raising the age above 65. The challenge to the default retirement age (DRA) was originally brought by Age Concern and Help the Aged [advocacy websites]. Justice Nicholas Blake rejected the challenge, noting his decision would have been different if the government had not announced a review of the law:
If Regulation 30 had been adopted for the first time in 2009, or there had been no indication of an imminent review, I would have concluded for all the above reasons that the selection of age 65 would not have been proportionate. It creates greater discriminatory effect than is necessary on a class of people who both are able to and want to continue in their employment. A higher age would not have any general detrimental labour market consequences or block access to high level jobs by future generations. If the selection of age 65 is not necessary it cannot therefore be justified. I would, accordingly, have granted relief requiring it to be reconsidered as a disproportionate measure and not capable of objective and reasonable justification in the light of all the information available to government.
The groups that challenged the law do not plan to appeal [BBC report] the ruling, as the government is currently reviewing the law.
In March, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] also upheld [JURIST report] the law, finding that it was not in violation of a European Commission [official website] directive [EC 2000/78, PDF] that prohibits discrimination based on age in regards to employment and occupation. In its decision, the ECJ emphasized that the UK regulations are only legal if they meet legitimate social policy objectives. The ruling followed a September opinion [JURIST report] by ECJ Advocate General Jan Marzak that concluded age-based classifications are justifiable in some circumstances. The ECJ ruling ultimately left the decision of whether the laws are legitimate and appropriate to the UK national courts.
[JURIST] The South Korean Constitutional Court [official website, in Korean] ruled Thursday that a ban on nighttime assemblies is an unconstitutional violation of the right to free assembly. The court gave the National Assembly until June 30, 2010, to amend [Hankyoreh report] Article 10 of the Assembly and Demonstration Law [text, PDF, in Korean], which bans outdoor assemblies and demonstrations prior to sunrise and after sunset, finding that it violates the country's constitution [text]. The ruling came in the case of a man charged with organizing a street rally over imported beef and mad-cow disease at night, in which a district court asked the Constitutional Court to decide the constitutionality [Seoul Times report] of the law. Rights groups have welcomed the ruling, and one Korean law professor said [Hankyoreh op-ed] he "hope[s] this decision by the Constitutional Court will provide a starting point for straightening out the distorted 'law and order' that has been put in place based on the Assembly and Demonstration Law."
South Korea's Assembly and Demonstration law was enacted in 1962. Article 10 prohibits outdoor rallies after sunset without permission. Those who rally at night without prior approval face fines and jail time [AFP report]. The provision was previously upheld by the Constitutional Court in 1994.
[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ruled that Russia is liable [press release] for the disappearance of two Chechen civilians. In the cases of Akhmed Rezvanov and Ramzan Babushev [judgments], the ECHR found Russia responsible for the disappearances of the two men in 2002 and 2003, respectively, fining Russia 90,000 [RIA Novosti report]. The court held that Russia had violated several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights [text], including the Article 2 right to life and the Article 3 right to be free from psychological suffering. The court also found that Russia had failed to investigate the disappearances.
The ECHR has repeatedly ruled against Russia in human rights cases involving Chechnya [JURIST news archive], and rights groups have urged Russia to enforce the judgments [JURIST report]. In April, the ECHR ordered [JURIST report] Russia to pay a total of 282,000 to compensate the families of Chechen abduction victims. In March, the court ordered Russia [JURIST report] to pay 37,000 to a Russian national for the death of her husband, who was chopping wood when Russian troops killed him in 2000. In December, the court determined [JURIST report] Russia had violated the human rights of six other Chechens who disappeared between 2001 and 2003, and ordered Russia [ECHR news release] to pay the victims' families 320,000. Also in December, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] proposed [transcript, in Russian] that Russian courts become more transparent [JURIST report] in order to restore faith in the justice system and prevent people from turning to the ECHR.
The real danger currently facing Iraq is outside interference in its internal affairs which has committed the worst crimes against innocent Iraqis from various segments of society, men, women, children, and the elderly. In an attempt to destabilize security and stability achieved in Iraq during 2008 and 2009, Iraq has witnessed recently a series of bombings and terrorist attacks, the last of which was the "bloody Wednesday" explosions that targeted the Iraqi ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance which targeted the country's sovereign institutions on 19 August 2009. This led to many innocent victims, including many employees of the government, diplomats and administrators. These criminal acts and large number of victims have reached the level of genocide and crimes against humanity subject to punishment under international law. We believe these acts at this level of organization, complexity and magnitude cannot be planned, funded and implemented without support of external forces and parties and primary investigations indicate the involvement of external parties in the process.
Therefore, the government of the Republic of Iraq puts this important matter on the table of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and requests its submission to the Security Council for the purpose of forming an independent international investigation commission due to the nature and scope of the committed crimes which require an investigation outside the jurisdiction of Iraq and bring those found guilty to a special international criminal court.
[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] has denied the habeas corpus petition of Algerian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Sufiyan Barhoumi, according to a Thursday Miami Heraldreport [text]. Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled in a still-classified opinion that the US may continue detaining Barhoumi, who is accused of training with al Qaeda, setting up a bomb-making shop, and purchasing supplies to make roadside bombs. This was Collyer's first ruling in a Guantanamo habeas case, bringing the total number of government victories to eight, while 30 detainees' habeas petitions have been granted.
Barhoumi originally faced conspiracy charges [DOD press release], but those charges were thrown out when the US Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in 2006 that the military commission system as initially constituted violated US and international law. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF], which established the current military commissions system. Barhoumi was charged in May 2008 with with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, but those charges were later dropped [JURIST reports].
[JURIST] Several demonstrations at the Pittsburgh Group of 20 (G-20) Summit [official websites] turned violent Thursday afternoon and late evening as protesters clashed with police. In the city's Oakland neighborhood, home of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, police in riot gear cleared protesters and student onlookers [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report] from an area around Phipps Conservatory, where President Barack Obama had hosted a dinner for world leaders. Police ordered the crowd to disperse, then moved down nearby Forbes Avenue past the University of Pittsburgh School of Law using smoke canisters and rubber bullets as some protesters threw stones and broke the windows of several local businesses.
This video was shot on the corner of Forbes Ave. and Bouquet St., where the law school is located:
The law school building, JURIST's headquarters, was not damaged.
Earlier in the day, police dispersed an anarchists' march in the city's Lawrenceville neighborhood with pepper spray canisters and rubber bullets after announcing that it was an unlawful assembly.
More than 60 people were arrested [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report] during Thursday's protests, and several others were injured, though none seriously. Protests and demonstrations are expected to continue Friday. The largest march [protest website], organized by the Thomas Merton Center [advocacy website], is expected to move from Forbes Avenue to downtown around Noon local time.
The violent protests stood in marked contrast to peaceful protests [JURIST report] that took place earlier in the day when protesters took to Pittsburgh's streets to call attention to a range of global human rights issues. A group of Tibetan protesters [WPXI report] from across the US held a march to call Chinese President Hu Jintao's attention to recent human rights abuses in that region [JURIST news archive]. The march is scheduled to continue Friday. Another group rallied for freedom to practice Falun Gong [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report], a religion whose followers face persecution in China [JURIST news archive]. On Pittsburgh's North Side, a group of Burmese monks marched in protest of human rights conditions in Myanmar [JURIST news archive]. The Coalition of Ethiopians for Human Rights marched downtown seeking fair elections [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report] in Ethiopia and the release of imprisoned opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa.
Editor's note: read eyewitness coverage of Thursday's Lawrenceville protest on JURIST Dateline.
[JURIST] The European Commission (EC) [official website] said Thursday that Poland and Estonia cannot issue new carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances, despite a court victory on Wednesday. The announcement was made by EC Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas, who indicated that the larger allowances proposed by the two nations must be approved [WSJ report] by the EC prior to implementation. On Wednesday, the European Court of First Instance at the Court of Justice of the European Communities [official websites] ruled [case materials] that the EC overstepped its authority in denying the allowances proposed by Poland and Estonia for the period of 2008-2012. While the EC called the data used to calculate the allowances for the two countries unreliable, the court said that the Commission did not describe why they were not reliable. The court decision has already had a collateral effect, as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that Italy should be able to issue additional CO2 allowances [EUobserver report].
The EC caps CO2 emissions of member countries through the Emission Trading System (ETS) [legislative materials], enacted in October 2003. Part of the ETS is a cap and trade system, which has recently come under consideration in the US. In late June, the US House of Representatives passed legislation [JURIST report] that included cap and trade among other means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. That legislation is currently pending before the Senate. The US has also acted in other ways to address concerns over climate change, including proposing new fuel economy standards and expressing tentative support [JURIST reports] for an international climate change treaty.
Editor's Note: Additional primary coverage of European Commission climate change policy available on JURIST's Dateline.
[JURIST] US Solicitor General Elena Kagan [official profile] told the Supreme Court [official website] in a letter [text, PDF] filed Thursday that the US plans to transfer up to eight Uighur Guantanamo Bay detainees [JURIST news archive] to Palau and that six have already agreed to the transfer. According to the letter, the government of Palau is willing to accept 12 of the 13 Uighurs still at Guantanamo. Kagan wrote:
On September 16 2009, the Department of State notified Congress in a classified submission that the U.S. government intends to transfer eight of the petitioners to Palau, with the transfer to occur no earlier than October 1. Although the Department of State hopes that all eight of these individuals will agree to be resettled in Palau, at this point six of them have made that commitment. Discussions with the remaining two of the eight petitioners are ongoing. The U.S. government has every reason to believe that at least six of the petitioners shortly will be resettled in Palau, although it is impossible to be certain until they actually board the plane. The date on which the plane is scheduled to depart Guantanamo for Palau is classified.
She added that the "United States is working diligently to find an appropriate place to resettle the remaining Uighur detainees."
In June, the Supreme Court closed its 2008 term without deciding whether to hear the case [JURIST report] of the remaining 13 Uighur Muslims at Guantanamo. The Court did not provide a reason for delaying its decision, but court watchers believe that it may have been based on a desire to avoid interference with a potential diplomatic solution. If the remaining Uighurs are transferred overseas before the Court decides to hear their case, it will likely be dismissed as moot. If not, the Court may reach a decision on whether to take the case in October when the 2009 term begins. Also in June, four of the Uighurs were transferred to Bermuda [JURIST report]. The Uighurs' release was ordered [opinion and order, PDF; JURIST report] by a US district court in October, but that decision was overturned [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in February by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website]. The Chinese government has repeatedly demanded the repatriation of the Uighurs, maintaining that they are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [CFR backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. The US has previously rejected China's calls to repatriate [JURIST report] the Uighurs, citing fear of torture upon their return.
[JURIST] The US and Switzerland signed a treaty [text, PDF] Wednesday that would increase the amount of information shared between the two nations on would-be tax evaders. The agreement was constructed in accordance with Article 26 of the Model Tax Convention [text, PDF], which states in relevant part:
The competent authorities of the Contracting States shall exchange such information as is foreseeably relevant for carrying out the provisions of this Convention or to the administration or enforcement of the domestic laws concerning taxes of every kind and description imposed on behalf of the Contracting States.
The new cooperative agreement between the US and Switzerland comes one month after former UBS [corporate website] banker Bradley Birkenfeld was sentenced to 40 months in prison [JURIST report] for helping a California real estate developer hide $200 million to avoid paying taxes. One day before that sentencing, a Swiss banker and lawyer were indicted in US federal court [JURIST report] for helping clients hide assets. Earlier in August, the US reached a preliminary agreement with Switzerland over the identification of anonymous accounts [JURIST report] in Swiss banks, which would aid US officials in identifying those who seek to evade taxes.
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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.