[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that permits to carry concealed weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment [text]. The case involved a Washington state resident who filed a lawsuit against Denver and Colorado's Department of Public Safety [official website]. He was denied a concealed weapons permit since he was not a Colorado resident, and he claimed it violated his Second Amendment rights. A federal judge dismissed his case in 2011, and the appeals court decided that carrying concealed firearms is not protected by the Second Amendment or the Privileges and Immunities Clause, nor is the right of people to keep and bear arms infringed upon by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons. The judge reasoned:
Given that the concealed carrying of firearms has not been recognized as a right, and the fact that concealed carry was prohibited for resident and non-resident alike for much of our history, we cannot declare this activity sufficiently basic to the livelihood of the Nation.
[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Monday reiterated his call for global support against the use of death penalty [statement]. The message was delivered by UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang [official profile] in an event organized by the International Commission against Death Penalty [advocacy website]. Ban stressed that death penalty should be abolished because it is inconsistent with the most fundamental human right principle: right to life. He also expressed concern that some states which have abolished the controversial practice has resumed imposing death penalty and proceeded with executions. He reiterated that "[t]he taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process." Ban urged that the trend of abolishing capital punishment should be continued:
Capital punishment is inconsistent with the mission of the United Nations to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person. A global moratorium is a crucial stepping stone towards full worldwide abolition. I urge you to use this meeting to consider how to further this end.
A moratorium on the death penalty was first approved [JURIST report] by the UN General Assembly [official website] in 2007 and, as of December 2012, has gained the support of 111 countries, with 41 against and 34 neither supporting nor opposing.
The use of the death penalty has remained a controversial issue around the globe. Earlier this month, a Kashmiri militant who received the death penalty for participating in the 2001 attack on India's parliament was executed [JURIST report] after India's president turned down his plea for clemency. Also this month, two UN human rights experts expressed concern over the death sentence [JURIST reports] imposed by the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICBT) on Abdul Kalam Azad for crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The experts argued that the trial failed to provide for guarantees of a fair trial and due process. Last month an Egyptian court upheld the in absentia death sentences [JURIST report] of seven Coptic Christians and an American preacher on charges stemming from the amateur anti-Muslim film Innocence of Muslims, which sparked violent protests in the Middle East last year. Also last month, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley announced that he will file legislation to repeal [JURIST report] capital punishment in the state of Maryland.
The ICC only has jurisdiction over member states of the Rome Statute [text] or if a situation is referred to it by the UN Security Council [official website]. Syria signed [text] the Rome Statute in November 2000 but has yet to ratify it. More than 70,000 people have been killed in Syria, according to Pillay, and she has repeatedly urged the Security Council to refer the situation to the ICC. Pillay called for the international community to strengthen its processes for addressing human rights violations and provide the necessary support to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Syrian government has been in conflict with the opposition since 2011, and the international community has become increasingly concerned about the violence. Pillay urged [JURIST report] the Security Council to refer the Syrian situation earlier this month. Last month more than 50 countries asked the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria [JURIST report] to the ICC. A study carried out by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] reported in January that the average number of deaths per month has increased significantly [JURIST report] since the summer of 2011, where the average was approximately 1,000 per month, to an average of 5,000 deaths per month since July 2012. A UN official said in November that a video posted on the Internet of Syrian rebels executing government soldiers who had surrendered may be evidence of war crimes [JURIST report]. In October, Pillay called on the international community to work to bring an end to the Syrian conflict [JURIST report]. Her statement came after Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported earlier that month that the Syrian government was using cluster bombs [JURIST report] against opposition forces. In September UN investigators reported [JURIST report] that the number and frequency of human rights violations committed by both sides of the conflict were increasing rapidly.
[JURIST] Trial began Monday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] between individuals affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder] and British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website]. The other corporations involved [Reuters report] are the rig owner Transocean Ltd. and well cement services provider Halliburton Co. [corporate websites]. The parties bringing suit against BP include the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], states bordering the Gulf Coast and individuals who did not agree to an earlier settlement agreement. The trial is to be conducted in phases [WP report] with the first part focusing on determining what caused the blowout of the well and assign percentage blame on the companies involved. Other issues that are to be resolved are BP's level of negligence in conjunction with the incident and the amount of oil that escaped into the Gulf of Mexico, both elements are critical to determine BP's possible penalties under the Clean Water Act (CWA) [EPA summary].
Monday's commencement of the trial against BP and other corporations is the most recent development in a long series of legal battles that have arisen from the Deepwater Horizon Crisis. In January a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana accepted a plea agreement [JURIST report] between BP and the DOJ for the company's criminal liability in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Earlier in January, Transocean Ltd. pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to "negligently discharging oil into the Gulf of Mexico," in violation of the CWA and will pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal penalties for its role in the Deepwater Horizon spill. In December a federal judge approved [JURIST report] a final class settlement between BP and those who experienced economic and property loss stemming from the spill. In November BP executives pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to criminal charges stemming from the oil spill. Earlier that month BP agreed to pay [JURIST report] $4.5 billion in penalties for felony misconduct for its role in the spill. A federal judge ordered [JURIST report] BP to share partial liability with Transocean in oil spill claims in January 2012.
[JURIST] The Abu Dhabi Federal Appeal Court on Monday upheld the sentences of 10 Somali pirates convicted of highjacking a UAE-owned bulk-carrier ship. In April 2011, the men reportedly commandeered the MV Arrilah-1 [AFP report] as it hauled aluminum in the Arabian Sea en route to Dubai from Australia. The pirates allegedly used small-arms and explosives to lay siege to the vessel for 30 hours until UAE special forces raided the ship and apprehended the pirates with support from the air force and the US Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet [official website]. The Abu Dhabi Federal Criminal Court of First Instance charged the men with highjacking and sentenced them to life in prison [JURIST report] in May. The court also ordered that all arms and ammunition used in the highjacking be confiscated and held that the pirates would be deported after serving their sentences, which equate to 25 years for each defendant. The appellate court accepted the appeal in form and rejected it on the merits [WAM report] on Monday.
Maritime piracy [JURIST news archive] remains an issue of global concern. In December the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled [JURIST report] that Somalia's territorial waters extend no more than 12 miles from shore, concluding that the US has jurisdiction to prosecute a band of pirates accused of murdering four Americans in 2011. In November the UN Security Council condemned [JURIST report] piracy and acts of armed robbery against vessels off the coast of Somalia. The UN Security Council urged the international community to develop a comprehensive response to discourage these acts. In October the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Hamburg sentenced 10 Somalis [JURIST report] involved in hijacking a German freighter off the coast of Somalia in 2010. Also in October, an appeals court in Kenya concluded that Kenyan courts have jurisdiction [JURIST report] to try international piracy suspects. Also that month six accused Somali pirates went on trial [JURIST report] in a Paris court in connection with the 2008 hijacking of the cruise ship Le Ponant in the Gulf of Aden. In July the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau reported that the number of global pirate attacks fell sharply [JURIST report] in the first half of 2012.
[JURIST] Philippines President Benigno Aquino III [official website] on Monday signed legislation to compensate the victims of human rights abuses committed 27 years ago under the regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos [JURIST news archive]. The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 [text, PDF] will allocate 10 billion pesos (USD $246 million) in reparations for approximately 10,000 victims [Manila Times report] eligible to claim compensation based on abuses that took place from the time Marcos instated martial law in 1972 until he was overthrown in 1986. Over the next six months eligible individuals may submit applications for reparations to the nine-member Human Rights Victims Compensation Board, appointed by the president, which will evaluate and award claims based on a point system. Aquino signed the law on the twenty-seventh anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution [Philippine History backgrounder], which was led by his mother, former president Corazon Aquino, and overthrew US-backed Marcos. During that period Aquino's father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was detained for months and later assassinated in Manila, making Aquino's family eligible to receive some of the funds, but Corazon Aquino has already stated that the family will not seek monetary reparations, merely official recognition of the tragedy. The reparations will be funded by money recovered from Swiss bank accounts [BBC report] secretly maintained by Marcos during his 20 years in power and transferred to the Philippine government by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997. Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989.
[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers [official website] Gabriela Knaul said Sunday that lawyers and judges in the Maldives are not adequately independent from outside influence [UN News Centre report]. The special rapporteur pointed to the power struggle between parliament, the government and the judiciary, as having a negative impact on the rule of law. Knaul further explained that the separation of powers is a central requirement for judicial independence and impartiality. The special rapporteur also pointed to the lack of female judges, the lack of education and training for members of the judiciary, and skepticism from the public as further evidence that the Maldives has not adequately secured an independent judiciary. Knaul reasoned that the challenges she pointed out are central to both the Constitution and international human rights standards.
The UN's criticism of the Maldives' judiciary is the latest of criticism aimed at the country. Last week a Maldives court issued a second arrest warrant [JURIST report] for former president Mohamed Nasheed [JURIST news archive] on charges of the illegal detention of a judge. The charges against Nasheed stemmed from his unilateral order to arrest [JURIST report] Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed on corruption charges in January, when Nasheed was still president. In September Amnesty International (AI) revealed violent human rights violations committed in the Maldives against opposition groups and called for an immediate independent investigation into the actions of security forces. The Maldives have experienced unrest since Nasheed ordered the arrest of the country's chief justice and then resigned [JURIST reports] as a result of the controversy. A court in the Maldives in July refused to hear a case [JURIST report] about the legality of the arrest of the chief justice, saying it did not have jurisdiction.
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