[JURIST] UN Officials and the UN Security Council [official website] on Monday called for an end to fighting [press release] in the Southern Kordofan area of Sudan [BBC backgrounder]. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] announced [press release] that the UN has received reports of indiscriminate aerial attacks, abductions, extrajudicial killings and mass graves discovered in the area. He also reported that UN staffers have been abducted, injured and killed during their efforts to investigate the human rights abuses. In a press conference, Simonovic discussed the "disturbing" trends that have been ongoing in Sudan since early June:
UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon [official websites] also voiced concern about the violence in South Sudan, called for a cease-fire and emphasized the UN's need for "unfettered access" to the area. The UN was unable to monitor the conditions in some regions of Sudan recently because the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) [official website], a peacekeeping mission, does not extend to the Republic of South Sudan, which became independent on July 9 [JURIST report]. The UN will publish an official report on its findings within the next 10 to 14 days.
South Kordofan, which has been held by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) since the 2005 peace deal that stifled Sudan's civil war, is a state in the center of Sudan, and has been a disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan due to its oil reserves. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs [official website] and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] denounced continued human rights abuses [statement] against civilians in the South Kordofan region in June, saying that the UN knows of more than 70,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom are subject to violence and targeting due to their ethnic heritage. Sudan's army, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), took over Abyei, a district in the state in May, causing a rebuke and demand for withdrawal [JURIST reports] by the UN. The UN confirmed reports of bombing and shelling in and around Abyei by the SAF, as well as widespread looting and burning of houses. Aid workers estimate 40,000 people have fled the area [BBC report]. While the UN has said that attacks on its peacekeepers amount to war crimes under international law, both the UN and the US have called on the northern troops to withdraw from Abyei. From the northern capital of Khartoum President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; ICC case materials; JURIST news archive] has stated he will not withdraw troops from the region and insisted that the area belongs to the north. An International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] case is open against al-Bashir and several nations have been urged to arrest him on sight including: China, Malaysia, Djibouti, Kenya and Chad [JURIST reports].
[JURIST] A Ukraine court on Monday dismissed Serhiy Vlasenko, a lawyer representing former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive], from judicial proceedings. Vlasenko had been defending Tymoshenko in a criminal case related to United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), an energy company at one time headed by the former prime minister. The Pechersky District Court of Kiev dismissed Vlasenko [Interfax report] saying he was responsible for systematic violation of order in the court, in contempt of court and responsible for obstruction of justice with disregard for the rule of law. Tymoshenko said on her website that the dismissal is an attempt to deprive her of effective counsel [press release] and criticized that the proceedings are being held behind closed doors. Vlasenko said he will appeal the dismissal [Kyiv Post report]. Tymoshenko's ongoing trial includes charges of abuse of office in connection with signing gas import contracts with Russia, misappropriating state funds and abuse of authority [JURIST reports] by purchasing "1000 Opel Combo" medical vans at a 20 percent mark-up during her time as prime minister from 2007-2010. UESU allegedly embezzled USD $405 million from the government.
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday urged [press release] the Bahraini government to end systematic attacks on injured patients and stop arresting medical professionals linked to recent anti-government protests. In a 54-page report [text, PDF] entitled "Targets of Retribution: Attacks against Medics, Injured Protesters, and Health Facilities," HRW presents evidence that Bahraini authorities have attacked health care providers, denied medical access to protesters injured by security forces, seized hospitals and health centers, and detained, mistreated, tortured and prosecuted medical professionals and patients. Documentation of the abuses began on February 17, when protestors and bystanders were attacked by government security forces during what HRW described as largely peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations. The invasion and capture of medical facilities has left injured protestors without necessary medical attention and exacerbated their conditions, HRW reported. Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East Director at HRW, contends that the systematic attacks are unfounded and constitute efforts to exact revenge on protestors:
The attacks on medics and wounded protesters have been part of an official policy of retribution against Bahrainis who supported pro-democracy protests. Medical personnel who criticized the severe repression were singled out and jailed, among the more than 1,600 Bahrainis facing solitary confinement and ill-treatment in detention and unfair trials before a special military court. Officials justify the government's crackdown and the arrests of the medics by alleging that they violated the principle of medical neutrality and committed heinous crimes. Yet they have failed to provide any convincing evidence that their actions are anything but a campaign of retribution aimed at silencing government critics.
The Bahraini government alleges that actions by protesters and medical staff compelled security and military forces to intervene. According to the report, over 30 people have died during the protest aftermath.
[JURIST] Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International (NI) and former editor of the newspaper News of the World [media websites], was arrested Sunday by UK police on charges related to a wide-spread phone hacking scandal. Police arrested Brooks [BBC report] on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and on suspicion of corruption. She was questioned and released on bail hours later. NI is a subsidiary of News Corporation (News Corp.) [media website], a conglomerate owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch [Forbes profile]. Brooks, 43, was editor of News of the World, also a News Corp. subsidiary, from 2000 to 2003 when the phone of murdered teen Amanda Dowler was hacked. Brooks, along with a number of high-ranking executives and journalists, have been arrested in relation to phone hacking allegations, some involving the tampering with phones of victims of the 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] terrorist attacks. Brooks resigned [statement] from her post at NI on Friday as accusations mounted, and is the tenth person to be arrested in connection with the hacking scandal.
US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced last week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] will open an inquiry [JURIST report] into whether journalists working for News Corp. and its subsidiaries violated US laws by hacking into the mobile phones of 9/11 victims. British Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced last week that the UK would also initiate an inquiry [Conservatives report] into the alleged wrongdoing of the press and police in connection with the 9/11 phone hacking scandal, as well as a full-scale review of press regulations. Members of the US Senate and House of Representatives [official websites] called on US agencies to open the News Corp. investigation [JURIST report]. The requests come in response to an article [text] published in the British tabloid, The Daily Mirror [official website], claiming that journalists working for the company offered to pay a New York City police officer in exchange for victims' phone information and call details. Recent reports allege that journalists for the now-defunct News of the World paid London police officers for private information, including telephone records, to use in various news stories. The company could face additional charges under the accounting provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) [background materials, PDF] for not properly recording any illicit transactions in their books.
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Friday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit over the constitutional right to sell cigarettes. The lawsuit was brought by Safeway, Inc. [corporate website], a chain of grocery stores, challenging a San Francisco city ordinance banning the sale of cigarettes by pharmacies. The original ordinance had included an exception for "big-box stores" that contain pharmacies, but it was amended due to a lawsuit brought by Walgreens arguing that such an exception violated the Equal Protection Clause (EPC) [Cornell LII backgrounder]. The ordinance cites health risks associated with smoking cigarettes and states, "through the sale of tobacco products, pharmacies convey tacit approval of the purchase and use of tobacco products, which sends a mixed message to consumers who generally patronize pharmacies for health care services." Safeway argued that the ordinance did not apply to its stores because the pharmacies are separate and isolated from the counters selling cigarettes, and the pharmacy personnel are not asked to sell cigarettes. Safeway further argued that the city's revocation of licenses to sell cigarettes granted under the exception in the original ordinance violated due process. Judge Claudia Wilken, however, said that the ordinance was a valid use of the police power and did not violate the EPC:
The purpose of the amended ordinance, to promote the public health by preventing people from becoming addicted to tobacco and by helping those already addicted to stop smoking, is legitimate and even compelling. In prohibiting the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, the amended ordinance accomplishes its purpose by ending any inference that tobacco products may not be harmful because they are sold by a major participant in the health care delivery system.
Furthermore, the court held that the ordinance was not preempted by state law regulating pharmacists. The court dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice and without leave to amend. San Francisco City Attorney David Herrera [official profile] said [press release], "those who operate pharmacies have chosen to participate in our healthcare delivery system, and that should not include the delivery of cigarettes. I am grateful that Judge Wilken rejected the argument that Safeway whose slogan is 'Ingredients for Life' has a constitutional right to sell addictive tobacco products." The California Medical Association [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief in favor of San Francisco.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products have been subject to strict marketing regulations on both the federal and state levels. Earlier this year, two tobacco companies filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] to enjoin a recent opinion by the agency's advisory committee due to conflicts of interest. Last year, the FDA announced a final rule [text] restricting tobacco sales and promotions [JURIST report] directed at youth. The Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents are a set of broad regulations "designed to significantly curb access to and the appeal of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and adolescents in the United States." In 2009, US President Barack Obama [official website] signed into law [JURIST report] the Family Smoking and Tobacco Prevention Act [HR 1256 text], which grants the FDA certain authority to regulate tobacco products. The legislation heightens warning-label requirements, prohibits marketing "light cigarettes" as a healthier alternative and allows for the regulation of cigarette ingredients. The bill gives the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products but does not permit the agency to regulate tobacco leaf that is not in the hands of tobacco product manufacturers or producers of tobacco leaf, including tobacco growers, tobacco warehouses and tobacco grower cooperatives.
[JURIST] The UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Monday ordered [press release, PDF] that both Thailand and Cambodia immediately withdraw military personnel from a disputed area along the border between the two countries. The Temple of Preah Vihear [UNESCO profile] is a demilitarized region between Cambodia and Thailand, and has been the sight of armed clashes [AP report] between military forces from both countries since 2008. The court voted 11-5 to instruct both countries to withdraw troops, as well as permit officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] to monitor the cease-fire, which was called for [JURIST report] by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website; JURIST news archive] in April. Thailand is also not permitted to refuse access to Cambodia with respect to non-military use of the area.
The Cambodian government asked [press release] the ICJ in May to order Thai troops to withdraw from the disputed border area. The ICJ ruling stems from a request from Cambodia seeking clarification [JURIST report] from the court of a 1962 decision [judgment, PDF] awarding the temple to the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh. Cambodia argued that the troops in the surrounding area of the temple are a threat to the security and peace of the region, while Thailand contended that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction to decide border disputes between countries. Parts of the Cambodia-Thailand border have never been formally demarcated, which has led to border disputes [BBC report]. In response to the latest border clash, Ban stressed that the dispute could not be resolved through military force [JURIST report] and urged both sides to continue working towards a ceasefire.
[JURIST] A Milan criminal court on Monday denied a motion filed by Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official website, in Italian; JURIST news archive] to move his prostitution trial to the Tribunal of Ministers [official website], a special court set up to prosecute public officials. The Tribunal of Ministers would require parliamentary authorization before hearing the case against Berlusconi. Berlusconi is on trial for allegedly paying for sex with a minor, then 17-year-old dancer, Karima El Mahroug, known as Ruby, and later calling police to secure her release while she was detained on an unrelated suspicion of theft. Also on Monday, a hearing [CNN report] was held in a separate corruption case [JURIST report] against Berlusconi for allegedly paying his former lawyer David Mills [JURIST news archive] in order to secure false testimony in his favor during two trials in 1997 and 1998 involving Berlusconi's broadcasting company, Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian]. The judge denied several other motions [AP report] brought by Berlusconi's lawyers. He did not attend the hearing, and his case was continued until October 3.
Berlusconi has been a defendant in nearly 50 cases, including two other ongoing proceedings involving tax fraud and embezzlement [JURIST reports]. Earlier this month, an Italian appeals court ordered Fininvest [corporate website], a holding company owned by Berlusconi, to pay 560 million euros (USD 801 million) in damages and fees to Compagnie Industriali Riunite (CIR) Group [corporate website]. The complaint stemmed from Fininvest's 1991 acquisition of Italian publishing company Mondadori [corporate website], during which Fininvest bribed a judge in exchange for favorable decisions. Neither Berlusconi nor Ruby attended [JURIST report] the beginning of the prostitution trial in April, and the court adjourned after only 10 minutes. Both parties deny having a sexual relationship, and Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing, calling the accusations groundless.
[JURIST] A Hungarian court on Monday dropped war crimes charges against accused Nazi Sandor Kepiro, who was alleged to have participated in the 1942 Novi Sad massacre in Serbia. Thirty-five people were killed by Hungarian forces under Kepiro's control during the World War II raid. Kepiro, whose trial began in May [JURIST report], persistently denied involvement and rejected the charges [AP report]. The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) [advocacy website], a Jewish human rights organization committed to finding and prosecuting Holocaust war criminals, named Kepiro, 97, as the world's most wanted Nazi war crimes suspect. Kepiro was convicted both in 1944 and 1946 and sentenced to 10 years for involvement in the raids, but he was released and fled to Argentina. He was located and apprehended by the SWC in 2006 and charged [JURIST report] in February.
Kepiro's prosecution was likely one of the last of an accused Nazi. In May, the trial of accused Nazi guard John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile, JURIST news archive] ended when he was convicted [JURIST report] but released because of his advanced age. An appeal [JURIST report] of his release is pending. In November, Nazi guard Samuel Kunz [Trial Watch profile], 89, passed away [JURIST report] in his home before he could be brought to trial. He was accused of aiding in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people at the Belzec concentration camp [HRP backgrounder].
Feedroll provides free Paper Chase news boxes with headlines or digests precisely tailored to your website's look and feel, with content updated every 15 minutes. Customize and get the code.
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.