[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] voted 71-26 Wednesday to ratify the so-called New START treaty [materials; JURIST news archive] between Russia and the US. The new START treaty replaces the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I treaty) [materials], with Russia and the US each pledging to reduce their countries' nuclear warheads by about 30 percent. Under the terms of the treaty and its protocol, both countries would only be allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic warheads, a decrease from the 2,200 currently permitted. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official websites], praised the ratification, saying:
This historic Senate vote makes our country safer and moves the world further away from the danger of nuclear disaster. The winners are not defined by party or ideology. The winners are the American people, who are safer with fewer Russian missiles aimed at them, and who benefit knowing that our cooperation with Russia in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and supplying our troops in Afghanistan can be strengthened.
The treaty needed at least 67 votes to be ratified.
US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official websites] signed the treaty [JURIST report] in Prague in April. The agreement, reached [JURIST report] in February, is the first nuclear agreement between the two nations in nearly 20 years. The US State Department began negotiating [JURIST report] the treaty with Russia in 2009. Nuclear disarmament between the US and Russia, whose nuclear arsenals comprise 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, languished during the Bush administration. The treaty is considered a key part of easing tensions between the two countries, which reached a high point after the 2008 Georgia conflict [BBC backgrounder].
[JURIST] The US Senate and the House of Representatives [official websites] on Wednesday gave final approval to a defense spending bill [HR 3082 materials] that includes a provision preventing Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees from being transferred to the US for trial. The legislation would block Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and the other accused 9/11 conspirators from being tried in a US civilian court. The bill was approved by the House [JURIST report] last week, prompting US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] to send a letter [text, PDF] to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them not to include the provision in the spending bill. If signed into law, the ban will remain in place until September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Also this week, reports have indicated that the Obama administration is considering implementing a periodic review process for detainees being held indefinitely at Guantanamo.
In the first civilian trial of an ex-Guantanamo detainee, a federal jury convicted [JURIST report] Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive] last month on only one of 285 counts of conspiracy, murder and attempted murder for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of US embassies [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Tanzania and Kenya. While the Obama administration viewed the conviction and 20-year minimum sentence as a victory, opponents have cited the acquittals as evidence that civilian courts are inadequate venues for trying terror suspects. Several scholars have nevertheless maintained that federal courts are capable of serving justice [JURIST op-ed; JURIST op-ed]. Upon taking office, President Barack Obama pledged to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST report] by January 2010, but he has been met with strong congressional opposition to transferring detainees to US soil
this law I'm about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend. No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the militaryregardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performancebecause they happen to be gay. No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love.
DADT will remain in effect until the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the necessary policies and procedures are in place within the military to implement the repeal. After receiving certification, the full repeal must take effect within 60 days.
The Obama administration had been pushing Congress to repeal DADT as courts have also been weighing in on the issue. Last week, three former service members discharged under DADT filed a complaint against the Department of Defense seeking reinstatement [JURIST report] and the declaration that their discharges under the statute, and the statute itself, are unconstitutional. Last month, US Air Force Major Margaret Witt, who was discharged under DADT, became the first openly gay person to serve in the US military after the Obama administration did not pursue a stay of a previous federal court decision ordering her reinstatement [JURIST reports]. The policy was struck down by a federal court in September, but an appeals court has since stayed that ruling [JURIST reports]. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Tuesday ordered [text, PDF] the US government to pay more than $2.5 million in damages and attorney's fees to an Islamic charity for illegally wiretapping its conversations without a warrant. Judge Vaughn Walker found in March that the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] warrantless wiretapping program violated the rights of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation [JURIST news archive] under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text], granting the foundation's motion for summary judgment despite refusing to admit a confidential NSA document into evidence. While Walker ordered the government to pay attorney's fees and damages Tuesday, he declined to order punitive damages [NYT report], concluding that the government had not shown "reckless or callous indifference" to the plaintiffs' rights. Walker also declined to make a "declaration that defendants' warrantless electronic surveillance was unlawful as a violation of FISA," or to "order that any information obtained by means of the defendants' unlawful surveillance shall not be used by the United States government in any proceeding and shall be expunged from defendants' files and records."
Al-Haramain filed a motion [JURIST report] for partial summary judgment in July 2009. In February 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] affirmed the district court's ruling [JURIST reports] denying a government appeal to keep the NSA call log secret, despite its accidental release to Al-Haramain in 2004. The call log had been deemed a state secret [JURIST report], but the decision required the government to allow the foundation to view the document. JURIST contributor Victor Comras said that Walker had done a "truly remarkable job" balancing national security and due process [JURIST comment] in the case. Walker had previously dismissed the suit [JURIST report], finding that Al-Haramain lacked a cause of action because the state secrets privilege trumped procedural requirements under FISA
[JURIST] A UK High Court on Tuesday denied an appeal [judgment text] from Iraqi citizens to open a single public inquiry into allegations of abuse by members of the British Armed Forces. The Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) [law firm website], the group representing a group of more than140 Iraqis, appealed to the High Court after Defence Secretary Liam Fox [official website] refused to open a single public inquiry into allegations of UK military abuse. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website] argued that a public inquiry would be unnecessary since public inquiries into the Baha Mousa [JURIST report] and the Al Sweady cases were already under way by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT). In the appeal, PIL contended that IHAT was not sufficiently independent as required by article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) [text]. Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Silber ruled that IHAT met the requirements of article 3, stating:
we do not accept any of the grounds on which the claimant contends that IHAT lacks the requisite independence for the purposes of an article 3 compliant investigation. Any problem arising out of personal involvement by members of the RMP in the events under investigation can be dealt with appropriately and will have to be so dealt with in order to avoid jeopardising the compliance of the process with article 3.
Richards and Sibler did not rule out that the IHAT investigations may give rise to systemic issues that may require public inquiries in the future. PIL issued a statement on Tuesday expressing their disappointment [press release] and announcing their plan to take the case to the Court of Appeals.
The hearings into Fox's refusal to open public inquiries began in November [JURIST report]. The PIL submitted videos to support claims that UK soldiers and interrogators abused Iraqi detainees in British internment facilities. In September, an MOD report found that the UK's treatment of detainees complies with domestic and international law [JURIST report]. In July, UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced that he would create a panel [JURIST report] to investigate claims that British government agents were complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects held overseas. The investigation stems from a civil action, brought by 12 ex-detainees who allege that British agents participated in their abuse while they were held in prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and other countries. The UK will ask them to drop their lawsuits in exchange for possible compensation and a promise that the impending inquiry will fully investigate their claims. In June, the UK government indicated that it will issue a new set of regulations regarding the use of information obtained via torture [JURIST report] as claims of complicity in torture were made against the government in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [materials] released the same day.
In 2008, Ryan issued his first public apology [JURIST report] for the crimes that resulted in his imprisonment. He was jailed [JURIST report] on corruption charges in 2007. Ryan's trial began in 2005, and, in 2006, a jury found him guilty [JURIST reports] on multiple counts of corruption and fraud [indictment, PDF] in connection with a bribes-for-licenses scandal that occurred during Ryan's term as Illinois Secretary of State. Ryan made national headlines and won praise in some quarters in January 2003 when, just before leaving office, he commuted the executions [BBC report] of all Illinois inmates then on death row.
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