[JURIST] African foreign ministers agreed Friday to request that Kenyan leaders accused of inciting violence following the 2007 elections stand trial in their home country rather than before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] in The Hague. This follows Tuesday's report [text, PDF] by the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission [advocacy website] connecting [JURIST report] the Kenyan leaders to the violence. The African leaders' request stems from accusations [AFP report] by members of the African Union that the ICC targets African governments that do not please western leaders. The president and vice president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and William Ruto [JURIST news archive], respectively, stand accused of inciting violence following the 2007 elections [JURIST news archive] in which more than 1,100 people died.
This is the latest in the controversy surrounding Kenyatta and Ruto's involvement in the human rights violations. Despite the allegations, both were able to win the recent election [JURIST report]. Earlier this month the Kenyan ambassador to the UN requested the ICC drop the charges [JURIST report] against Kenyatta and Ruto. Also this month the ICC continued to postpone [JURIST report] Ruto's trial. In April a judge overseeing Kenyatta's case withdrew [JURIST report] from the case, after the President's personal attorney requested that the charges be dropped.
[JURIST] Finnish telecommunications company Nokia filed suit against Taiwanese company HTC [corporate websites] Thursday for selling products in the US that infringe Nokia's patents on mobile technology. Three patents in question involve program products typically used in hand sets for a mobile phone. Thursday's suit brings the total number [Inquirer report] of Nokia patents being asserted against HTC in courts around the world to 50.
Nokia has a long history [JURIST news archive] of holding other companies accountable in the courts. HTC finds itself across the aisle from Nokia with Apple, Rhythm in Motion (known for their Blackberry products), the German law firm IPCom GmbH & Co, amongst others. For example, In March 2011 Nokia announced that it had filed complaints against Apple [JURIST report] with the US International Trade Commission (ITC). That complaint alleged that Apple violated seven patents regarding various technological devices and their operating systems. Previous to that announcement, Nokia and Apple had both sued each other over more than 20 patents in more than four countries.
[JURIST] Hobby Lobby, Inc. [corporate website] requested an exemption from the mandate to provide employees with coverage for contraceptives under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder] in an en banc hearing before the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] on Thursday. The Green family, founders of Hobby Lobby and its sister company Mardel, contend [AP report] that businesses, not just the currently exempted religious groups, should be excepted from that part of the health law if it violates the business-owners' religious beliefs. The US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma [official website], from which the Green family appealed, ruled [opinion, PDF] that for-profit businesses are not covered by the exemption for religious organizations, which currently applies to churches themselves, but not to affiliated nonprofit corporations, like hospitals, which do not rely primarily on members of the faith as employees.
Thursday's en banc hearing is the most recent development in the challenge by the Green family in its fight against the PPACA. In February a group of nine senators and two representatives joined to file an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby and Mardel. Last December the US Supreme Court [official website] said it would not intervene [JURIST report] by issuing an injunction while an appeal was still pending with the Tenth Circuit, to which the Greens have responded that they will not comply [JURIST report] with the mandate even without a protective injunction. Justice Sonia Sotomayor ruled that the Oklahoma City family's religiously oriented business did not meet the requirements to allow an injunction against the PPACA's mandate. The opinion stated that the Hobby Lobby family did not meet the standard of showing that they have an "indisputably clear" legal right to an injunction while appeal is pending.
[JURIST] The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website] and the Kosovo Police Special Operations Unit ROSU [EU backgrounder, PDF] arrested five people Thursday on suspicion of war crimes in the 1998-1999 conflict [JURIST news archive]. Although the names of the accused were not released, the lawyer for Sami Lushtaku announced that his client is among those arrested. Lushtaku is the mayor of the town of Skenderaj [OSCE backgrounder, PDF], and is a close ally of Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci [official website]. Both men served as commanders in the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) [BBC backgrounder] during the conflict. Allegedly, Kosovo's ambassador to Albania is also among those arrested. The five accused parties are charged with "war crimes against the civilian population in the form of violation of bodily integrity and health of civilians held in a KLA detention centre... also for... the killing of one civilian." The order for the arrest came from a pre-trial judge of the Mitrovica Basic Court [OSCE backgrounder, PDF] and will be prosecuted by the EULEX special prosecutor from the Special Prosecution Office of Kosovo (SPRK) [official website].
The DOJ alleged that Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster [corporate websites] conspired to fix the prices of e-books in response to Amazon's discount pricing strategy. The DOJ brought the suit in April, and the court denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST reports] in May. Commentators had been very mixed in response to the proposed settlement agreement. Some commentators have suggested that the DOJ's lawsuit is merely "superficial" [JURIST op-ed] and that the effect of the agency agreements may actually have been a net-positive to consumers if Amazon was selling e-books at a loss in order to drive the sale of Kindles. Other commentators, however, state that commentators against the settlement agreement and the defendants' arguments are based on a premise that competition is wrong [JURIST op-ed].
[JURIST] The Afghan Parliament approved two new electoral laws Wednesday that will take effect in the elections next spring. According to Tolo News of Afghanistan [official website], the statutes in question will provide a legal framework for the quarantine of ballot boxes and the creation of a complaints commission. Both houses of the Afghan Parliament have been working with President Hamid Karzai [official website] to establish laws for the election [unofficial statute translation, PDF] of his successor, and recent delays in the statutory process have threatened to delay the election itself. In order for the statute to become law, Karzai will have to approve it no more than 15 days after it was approved by Parliament [official website]. Voter registration for next spring's elections will open this Saturday, and these laws were passed with the legislative intent to provide security for voters, regardless of which candidate they support before the election season even begins.
These developments come as a direct result of an April 2012 Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) announcement that it would change the country's parliamentary election proceedings in an effort to eliminate future fraud. That announcement was the result of problems with the previous election. In August 2011 Karzai dissolved [JURIST report] the special elections court that he had created to investigate election fraud in parliamentary elections. The court was criticized as a vehicle for overturning the electoral gains made by many of Karzai's political opponents. In June 2011 the court had invalidated the election results [JURIST Report] of nearly 25 percent of the assembly seats. Karzai then ordered that the seating of parliament be delayed [JURIST report] by a month in order to further investigate the findings. Though Karzai conceded that the IEC retains ultimate authority on election results, the IEC stated that it would review the findings and documents of the court in the April 2012 announcement (above).
[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] delivered a speech [text] Thursday on US counterterrorism policy and efforts, outlining plans to restrict the use of unmanned drone strikes and to renew efforts to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder]. In Obama's first major speech on counterterrorism since his re-election, he addressed the war on terror: "Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue, but this war, like all wars, must end. That's what history advises. That's what our democracy demands." Rather than introduce new sweeping policies, Obama's speech reaffirmed his national security priorities. On drone strikes, the president noted that the US will only use drone strikes when a threat is "continuous and imminent," a nuanced change from the previous policy of launching strikes against any "significant" threat. Moreover, the Defense Department [official website], as opposed to the CIA, will now take charge of launching lethal drones. The president addressed the criticism on drone strikes, noting that the tragedy civilian casualties will haunt him, but he must weigh the alternatives. He defended the use of drones when unable to capture individual terrorists. Regarding Guantanamo, Obama stressed that he cannot close the facility on his own, but is taking steps at getting prisoners out. Of significance, he lifted a moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen. He also called on Congress to lift restrictions on the transfer of terrorism suspects.
The Obama administration's counterterrorism projects have been highly criticized. Earlier this month Pakistan declared US drone strikes are illegal [JURIST report] and directed Pakistan's Foreign Ministry [official website] to introduce a resolution against such attacks in the UN. Last month JURIST Guest Columnist David Frakt of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law argued that the Obama administration should release those detainees [JURIST op-ed] held at Guantanamo Bay who have already been declared to not be a danger to the US. Also last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for US authorities to close down the Guantanamo prison camp [JURIST report], emphasizing the continued indefinite incarcerations of many detainees as a clear violation of international law. In March a federal appeals court judge in the US reversed [JURIST report] a ruling on CIA drone strikes and held that the CIA must respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] claim filed by the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] requesting records on the CIA's drone program.
[JURIST] Lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] prisoners filed a complaint [text; case materials] Thursday alleging search policies restrict the detainees' access to counsel. According to a new policy [Al Jazeera report], detainees are subject to a genital pat-down whenever they wish to leave the detention camp, which they must do to meet with their lawyers. This caused representatives for more than a dozen detainees to file the complaint, saying:
The new policies have no legitimate purpose, but are pretextual, imposed in order to chill the right of access to counsel... The inescapable inference, however, is that the new policies have no legitimate purpose, but are pretextual, imposed in order to chill the right of access to counsel. Indeed, one guard has admitted that the purpose of the physical searches and the treatment inflicted upon detainees.
This new policy is said to offend and humiliate the prisoners in such a way as to prevent them effective access to counsel. Because of this, the challengers of the policy seek an immediate end to the practice.
Earlier this month US President Barack Obama [official website] renewed his pledge [JURIST report] to make an effort to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. In April JURIST Guest Columnist David Frakt of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law argued that the Obama administration should release those detainees [JURIST op-ed] held at Guantanamo Bay who have already been declared to not be a danger to the US. Earlier last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for US authorities to close down the Guantanamo prison camp [JURIST report], emphasizing the continued indefinite incarcerations of many detainees as a clear violation of international law.
[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Thursday published its annual report entitled State of the World's Human Rights [materials], which details the human rights landscape across the world in 2012. The report focuses on the increasing danger faced by those displaced from their homes. This includes international refugees displaced by violence and those internally displaced. More than 42 million individuals have been forced to flee from their homes because of violence or persecution. Specifically, the fighting in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] has displaced more than 1.5 million people. The report states:
The most vulnerable are the 12 million stateless people in the world, equivalent in numbers to the world's great agglomerations such as London, Lagos or Rio. And around 80% of them are women. Without the protection of their 'sovereign' state these people are true global citizens. And their protection falls to all of us. They are the purest argument for the fulfilment of the duty to protect there is. For human rights protections must be applied to all humans, whether at home or not.
The report goes on to highlight improvements and issues in specific countries. Notably, the report alleges both Israel and Palestine committed war crimes in November 2012. Also, the report highlights what AI calls a "deficit of justice" in the Brazilian justice system. Finally, the report notes New Zealand's high rate of child poverty as an area of needed improvement.
AI regularly reports on human rights violations around the world. In a recent comment, JURIST Guest Columnist Clare da Silva of AI argued [JURIST comment] that the new Arms Trade Treaty shows remarkable progress in the international regulation of arms transactions. In April AI criticized [JURIST report] Russia laws restricting free speech. Earlier last month AI reported [JURIST report] on Iraq executing 21 individuals convicted of terrorism. Also that month AI called upon [JURIST report] Ukraine to investigate police brutality and torture.
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