[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Wednesday said that a team of experts will be sent to Tunisia [press release] within the next week to assess the human rights priorities and meet with interim authorities following the ousting of its president [JURIST report] last week. In the last five weeks, more than 100 people have died from live fire, protest suicides and prison riots, according to Pillay's office. Tunisia Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Radhouanne Nouicer has agreed to the UN human rights mission. The interim government also has plans to set up its own human rights commissions: two Commissions inquiring into human rights abuses and corruption and a Commission on political reform. Pillay urged that justice and fair trials be strengthened and not undermined by violence, stating:
Human rights lie at the heart of the extraordinary developments which culminated in the departure of former President Ben Ali. We all hope this will be the beginning of a new Tunisia, where people are free to go about their lives without fear of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture or other forms of abuse.
On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] urged government leaders in Tunisia to initiate dialogue [JURIST report] between all sides in an attempt to restore rule of law. The Tunisia Constitutional Council officially announced [JURIST report] last week that President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali [official website] had permanently left the office of the president. The council, the country's highest legal authority on constitutional issues, declared that the leader of the lower house of parliament, Foued Mebezza, will assume power [AFP report] until elections are held in two months. The council made its ruling at the request of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi [Reuters profile] and based its ruling on article 57 of the constitution, declaring a "definitive" vacation of the presidency. Before flying out of Tunis to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali signed a decree granting interim presidential powers to Ghannouchi, attempting to leave open the possibility of returning to office. Mebezza took the oath of office [Al Jazeera report] on Saturday and according to the council he should organize new presidential elections within 60 days.
[JURIST] The Obama administration may increase its use of controversial military commissions [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] for Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees, according to a New York Timesreport [text] Wednesday. Per the report, administration officials plan to rescind an order issued on Obama's first day in office that halted military commission proceedings [JURIST report] and continues to block the government from initiating new cases under the system. If done, filings are expected within weeks, which would represent the first time that new charges are brought against detainees during the Obama administration. Officials are also reportedly drafting a new executive order that would establish mechanisms by which to review the cases of those detainees held without trial.
The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] in April released a manual [text, PDF; JURIST report] for military commission procedures under the Military Commissions Act of 2009 [text, PDF]. The manual established the rules of evidence and procedure for the commissions, allowing for the admission of certain hearsay evidence and defining "material support" for terrorism. The release came a month after Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] appointed [JURIST report] retired Navy Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald [official profile] as the convening authority for military commissions. The position oversees military commissions themselves as well as the Office of Military Commissions and, notably, has the power to review and approve charges against "belligerents" pursuant to the Military Commissions Act. UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Martin Scheinin [official website] in March urged the administration to abandon military commissions, calling the system "fatally flawed" [JURIST report] and beyond hope of reform. Scheinin's comments followed shortly after reports emerged indicating that the administration was considering trying specific suspects in military courts [JURIST report] rather than through the civilian justice system. In May 2009, unidentified sources revealed that the administration would pursue a broad reinstitution of the commission system [JURIST report] due to concerns about the viability of trying terror suspects in federal courts and, in particular, of meeting federal evidentiary standards.
[JURIST] The UK Court of Appeal [official website] on Thursday found in favor of Finnish telecommunications company Nokia [corporate website] in its most recent patent suit against German intellectual property firm IPCom GmbH & Co [corporate website]. The ruling [text] invalidates two European patents held by IPCom, for which the company had sought substantial compensation from Nokia. In reaching its decision, the court described IPCom's litigation tactics as an "abuse of process" designed to improperly prolong the proceedings. IPCom has had 13 additional patents nullified [Bloomberg report] as a result of four prior UK suits involving Nokia, and arguments between the companies pertaining to an unrelated divisional patent are scheduled for April.
[JURIST] A key defendant in the Galleon Group insider trading case pleaded guilty [press release] Wednesday to three counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud before judge Richard Holwell of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website]. Danielle Chiesi was accused of communicating non-public information about IBM Corporation, Advanced Microdevices (AMD) and Sun Microsystems (now Sun-Oracle) [corporate websites] in 2008 and 2009 to her superiors at New Castle Funds LLC [fund profile], a Manhattan-based investment advisory company formerly part of Bear Stearns [NYT backgrounder]. Chiesi was arrested in 2009 along with Galleon founder Raj Rajaratnam [JURIST news archive] and accused of using the information to reap more than $4 million in illegal profits for New Castle. Her attorney claims she never traded on her own account using the information, and that the actual take was considerably lower. New Castle is said to have gained at least $1.7 million from the trades. Chiesi reportedly got the information from former IBM executive Robert Moffat, with whom she was having an affair. Moffat is currently serving six months in prison for insider trading in connection with the Galleon case. While each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and fines as much as double the gross gain from the offense, Chiesi is said to have signed a plea bargain that will limit her confinement to 46 months at most. US Attorney Preet Bharara lauded the development:
Today, Danielle Chiesi admitted to exploiting her access to valuable, non-public information to reap $1.7 million in illegal gains. By sharing and conspiring to trade on inside information, Chiesi compromised the companies she sold out and distorted the market for their stocks. Today's plea should send yet another strong message that we have zero tolerance for privileged professionals who game the system and who think the rules apply only to everyone else.
Rajaratnam's trial in what has been called the biggest insider trading investigation in history is set start on February 28, also before Judge Holwell.
Moffat was sentenced [JURIST report] in September 2010 and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for his role in the scheme after he pleaded guilty [JURIST report] the previous March. Former Intel Capital [corporate website] executive Rajiv Goel pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to insider trading charges in connection with the Galleon probe earlier in February. Rajaratnam, Chiesi, Goel and Moffat were arrested in October and charged [complaint, PDF] along with two other individuals and two business entities with insider trading. The complaint alleged that the individuals provided Galleon Group and another hedge fund with material nonpublic information about several corporations upon which the funds traded, generating $25 million in illicit gain. Rajaratnam and Chiesi pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in December after being indicted for insider trading.
[JURIST] UN rights officials on Wednesday expressed "grave concerns" over continued post-election violence in the Ivory Coast [CIA backgrounder; JURIST news archive], cautioning that genocide could be imminent [press briefing]. During a daily briefing, UN Special Advisor on Genocide Francis Deng [official profile, PDF] and Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect Edward Luck [academic profile] discussed their fears for the nation and drew comparisons between the current situation in the Ivory Coast and the international community's failure to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide [JURIST news archive], as well as successful preventive measures in Kenya. The pair echoed warnings they gave last month that the UN has received unconfirmed reports of serious human rights violations [press release, PDF], specifically alleging that supporters and special forces of President Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] are inciting violence among different ethnic groups for political purposes. Also Wednesday, the UN Security Council unanimously authorized 2,000 additional peacekeeping troops [UN News Centre report; press briefing] in the African nation after reports of continued violence between opposing political forces and against UN peacekeepers.
The UN pledged support [JURIST report] for president-elect Alassane Ouattara [BBC profile] in January, committing UN peacekeeping forces to his aid. The UN also noted reports of mass graves [Newstime Africa report], and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] warned Gbagbo that he would be held accountable for continued post-election violence carried out in his name. Ouattara defeated Gbagbo in a runoff election in November, but Gbagbo has refused to concede defeat or leave office. During the ensuing violence, hundreds were arrested and dozens allegedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment. UN officials have pleaded [JURIST report] for all parties to the disputed presidential election to honor the country's commitment to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity under the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document [text, PDF]. The Economic Community of West African States [official website] has also urged [JURIST report] Gbagbo to step down, threatening the use of force if he attempted to maintain power. Gbagbo was elected to a five-year presidential term in 2000, but has managed to stay in office by delaying six successive elections.
[JURIST] Accused Arizona gunman Jared Lee Loughner [JURIST news archive; case materials] was indicted [text, PDF; press release] Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Tuscon, Arizona. He is charged with attempting to assassinate a member of Congress [18 USC § 351(c)] and two counts of attempting to murder a federal employee [18 USC §§ 1113-1114] in connection with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) [official website] and two of her aids, Ronald Barber and Pamela Simon. The January 8 attack, launched on an open meeting of Giffords' constituency outside a Tuscon Safeway, took the lives of six people. Loughner faces a maximum penalty of life in prison for the attempted assassination of Giffords. Each count of attempted murder of a federal employee carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. US Attorney Dennis Burke [official biography] of the District of Arizona [official website] said the investigation is still in its "early stages":
This case involves...death-penalty charges, and Department [of Justice] rules require us to pursue a deliberate and thorough process. Today's charges are just the beginning of our legal action. We are working diligently to ensure that our investigation is thorough and that justice is done for the victims in their families.
Loughner has been in custody without bail since January 8.
Last week, a California federal judge was appointed [JURIST news report] to try the case after all federal judges in Arizona recused themselves due to objectivity concerns arising from the death John Roll [WSJ profile], Chief Judge of the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website]. The previous day, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed [press release, PDF; JURIST report] emergency legislation [SB1101 materials; text] making it a crime to picket or protest a funeral after Reverend Fred Phelps's Westboro Baptist Church [official website; WARNING: readers may find material on this website offensive] announced plans to picket the funeral of Christina Green, a 9-year-old girl killed in the shooting. The church later backed off its plans [Arizona Republic report] and did not hold a protest. Prosecutors charged Loughner [criminal complaint, PDF; JURIST report] with murder and attempted murder last week. President Barack Obama has directed that the investigation into the shooting be conducted [press releases] by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] under the coordination of Director Robert Mueller [official profile]. Officials arrested Loughner on January 8 and continue to search for a possible accomplice [press release]. Due to the polarized political climate, many suspect that the attack was politically motivated [ABC report]. Giffords has received harsh criticism in Arizona for her vote for the health care reform law [HR 3590; JURIST news archive] and was among those members of Congress who reported threats or vandalism in 2010. Giffords also was an outspoken critic of Arizona's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 text; JURIST news archive]. This accusation, however, has been heavily criticized by both parties and a clear motive for the shootings has yet to be identified.
[JURIST] Four people, including former UN spokesperson Michele Montas, filed criminal complaints on Wednesday against former Haitian president Jean-Claude Duvalier [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Montas, who worked for the UN under Ban-Ki Moon, as well as Alix Fils-Aime and Claude and Nicole Magloire, allege that Duvalier committed crimes against humanity [HUP report, in French]. The four were allegedly imprisoned and subjected to torture [Le Nouvelliste report, in French] during Duvalier's presidency. Three of them were forced into exile. On Tuesday, Duvalier was briefly detained and charged [JURIST report] with corruption, embezzlement and a number of other crimes. Although Duvalier was officially charged, an anonymous Haitian government official told Reuters that they had not yet decided to prosecute [Reuters report]. Duvalier's lawyers have reacted to the complaints claiming their client in the target of government persecution. Duvalier returned suddenly to Haiti from exile in France this past Sunday and has expressed a desire to become president [Radio Kiskeya report, in French] of Haiti again.
Last February, the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland [official website, in French] announced that $4.6 million seized from Duvalier's Swiss bank account must be returned to his family [JURIST report]. The decision came after the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland [official website, in French] rejected the family's claim to Duvalier's money, which was hidden in Swiss banks during his tenure as president. In 2007, Haitian president Rene Preval [BBC profile] vowed to continue legal proceedings [JURIST report] against Duvalier despite the latter's plea for forgiveness in a recorded message broadcast around the country. Duvalier, also known as "Baby Doc," is the son of former Haitian leader Francois Duvalier, or "Papa Doc," whom he succeeded as "president for life." In response to accusations of human rights violations, Duvalier fled Haiti in 1986, and has since resided in France.
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled Tuesday that California state employees can sue for discrimination over the exclusion of their same-sex spouses from long-term health care programs. The Obama administration had been seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed on the basis of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive], but Judge Claudia Wilken allowed the lawsuit to proceed [San Francisco Chronicle report]. Under DOMA, same-sex couples legally married in the state are prevented from accessing the federal rights and benefits afforded to opposite-sex spouses, including the right to sponsor a spouse for immigration, the right to Social Security survivors benefits, the right to health insurance from a spouse who is federally employed and the right to jointly file income taxes. Three employees of the University of California - San Francisco filed the lawsuit because the Public Employees' Retirement System said it would not enroll their same-sex spouses [AP report] in a federally approved long-term care program.
[JURIST] Lawyers for Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday filed an appeal in Spanish court hoping to overturn orders from Spanish authorities to remove websites that allegedly violate privacy rights. Spain's Data Protection Agency [Privireal backgrounder] filed 90 orders for Google to remove the websites from its database. This case is the first of its kind [AP report], Google told the Associated Press, and it argues a ruling against it would hurt freedom of expression.
In August, Spanish officials announced in a separate case that Spain had launched an investigation [JURIST report] into whether Google violated privacy laws while collecting information over Wi-Fi networks for its Street View maps. Madrid judge Raquel Fernandino issued a subpoena for an appearance by a Google representative over a lawsuit filed by Apedanica, a Spanish association of Internet users. Apedanica claims that Google's actions violate Spain's criminal code, which prevents people from accessing certain electronic communications other than for authorized purposes. Multiple investigations are also pending around the world in connection with accusations that Google has unlawfully collected private data.
[JURIST] Human rights groups are calling for Lithuania to reopen its investigation into whether the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] had a secret prison in the country. Statements from Amnesty International (AI) and Reprieve [press releases] say that Friday's decision to stop the investigation [Baltic Times report] was premature. AI says that it has a "dossier of information relevant to the investigation" it was planning to send to investigators this week, and will now do so along with a letter requesting that the criminal probe be reopened. Northwestern Law professor Joe Margulies [academic profile], counsel for an alleged CIA torture victim, said in the Reprieve press release that "[t]he Prosecutor is trying to deflect blame for the failure of his investigation onto NGOs and the media. It's ironic that an official investigation into a secret torture facility should claim to be thwarted because the media is insufficiently transparent."
In 2009, the Lithuanian Parliament National Security Committee reported that the CIA had established secret prisons for al Qaeda suspects in the Baltic country. Lawmakers demanded the investigation [JURIST report] after ABC News reported that former CIA officials said that Lithuania provided the CIA with facilities for a secret prison for high-value al Qaeda suspects in order to improve relations with the US. The parliamentary committee concluded that the Lithuanian State Security Department provided the CIA with two secret facilities, but it is unclear whether either facility was used to interrogate detainees. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas [official profile] resigned [JURIST report] last January in the midst of a dispute with President Dalia Grybauskaite [official profile] over whether the prisons were in the country. Grybauskaite has publicly said that she believes there were prisoners held in Lithuania, but Usackas has denied this.
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