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Thursday, December 18, 2008

UK jury convicts first suspect charged with directing terrorism
Jaclyn Belczyk at 3:00 PM ET

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[JURIST] A jury at the Manchester Crown Court Thursday convicted a British Muslim suspected of al Qaeda involvement on charges of directing terrorism. Rangzieb Ahmed is the first person in the UK to be convicted of this crime under the Terrorism Act of 2006 [text, PDF]. Ahmed was allegedly a high-level al Qaeda member with ties to some of the organization's leaders. He is accused of setting up a terrorist cell [BBC report] in Manchester, and he allegedly boasted of meeting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [JURIST news archive], the man accused of planning the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive]. Ahmed also had a book with contact information for al Qaeda leaders [Telegraph report] written in invisible ink. Ahmed will be sentenced Friday. A second man, Habib Ahmed, who is not related to Rangzieb Ahmed, was convicted of al Qaeda membership but cleared of other terrorism charges. Habib Ahmed's wife was also cleared of charges of funding terrorism.

Rangzieb Ahmed was originally charged [BBC report] in September 2007. Prosecutors told the court that he was a key member of al Qaeda [BBC report], but he denied all charges. Last moth, he told the court that he had lied about being a terrorist in order to make money [BBC report] by selling his story to a newspaper.



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ICTY rules alleged Karadzic immunity deal invalid
Jaclyn Belczyk at 11:02 AM ET

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[JURIST] A panel of judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] ruled Wednesday that there was no valid immunity deal [decision, PDF] between war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; ICTY backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke [PBS profile] and that even if such an agreement had existed, it would not be valid under international law. Judge Iain Bonomy wrote:
The Trial Chamber notes the vague nature of the Accused's submissions in relation to the alleged agreement. In particular, in the Official Submission the Accused states repeatedly and emphatically that "there is no doubt that this offer was made in the name of the USA" and refers to the alleged agreement as being "between the USA and me", but in the Motion he argues he is "the beneficiary of ... a specific agreement not to prosecute him as an individual" and that the alleged agreement is attributable to the ICTY. The Accused does not specify in what form the agreement was made. The Accused indicates that he intends to demonstrate "the effective control of the United States over the peace process in Bosnia from August 1995 ... [and] the relationship between the United States and the ICTY OTP" in order to draw a connection between the actions of Mr. Holbrooke in his capacity as a representative of the United States and either the United Nations, its member states or the Office of the Prosecutor of the Tribunal. The Trial Chamber considers that the Accused makes no prima facie showing of that connection, and appears to have misinterpreted the law on this point.

The Trial Chamber considers it well established that any immunity agreement in respect of an accused indicted for genocide, war crimes and/or crimes against humanity before an international tribunal would be invalid under international law. The Trial Chamber further considers that, pursuant to the Statute and Rules of the Tribunal, neither its own mandate nor that of the Prosecutor is affected by any alleged undertaking made by Mr. Holbrooke.

The Trial Chamber concludes that this argument is without substantive basis, and therefore that information that the Accused may intend to use in support of it is not material to the preparation of the defence in this respect.
The panel ruled, however, that prosecutors must turn over to Karadzic any notes, agreements, or recordings related to the alleged immunity deal, in response to an October motion [motion, PDF; JURIST report] by Karadzic. In August, Karadzic alleged that Holbrooke agreed [submission, PDF; JURIST report] in 1996 that Karadzic would not face war crimes charges if he removed himself from power. It is unclear whether Karadzic will appeal [AP report] the panel decision. Prosecutors do not plan to appeal the turnover ruling.

Karadzic faces 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide, murder, persecution, deportation, and "other inhumane acts," for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors filed a motion to amend the indictment [JURIST report] in September, in hopes of simplifying the proceedings. Karadzic was arrested [JURIST report] in July after evading capture for nearly 13 years. He was originally indicted in 1995 but had been in hiding under an assumed identity as an alternative medicine practitioner [BBC report]. He repeatedly refused to enter a plea on the charges, with an ICTY judge eventually entering a not guilty plea [JURIST reports] on his behalf. If the court approves the amended indictment, Karadzic will be asked to enter new pleas.



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Mukasey removes himself from Madoff investigation
Steve Czajkowski at 10:59 AM ET

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[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile; JURIST news archive] recused himself from the investigation of former NASDAQ stock market chairman Bernard Madoff [JURIST news archive] because his son is representing a top official in Madoff's investment firm, US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] officials said Wednesday. Mark Mukasey, a former federal prosecutor, works as an attorney with the New York law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani [firm website] and is representing Frank DiPascali, the chief financial officer at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC [archived website]. DOJ officials did not say when Mukasey found out about the conflict but did say that he was removing himself entirely from the investigation and would not be making any decisions on the case.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] filed charges [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] last week in New York against Madoff and his firm for an alleged $50 billion fraud scheme. On Tuesday, SEC Chairman Christopher Cox [official profile] said that he would launch an immediate investigation [press release] into how the fraud allegedly perpetrated by Madoff went undetected for so long. The SEC will also look into relationships between SEC officials and Madoff's family members, including Madoff's niece, who married a former SEC lawyer in 2007.



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ICTR convicts former top Rwanda defense official of genocide but rejects conspiracy
Bernard Hibbitts at 8:18 AM ET

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[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] sentenced a former top official in Rwanda's Ministry of Defence and two other former Rwanda army officers to life imprisonment Thursday after convicting them of genocide and crimes against humanity [press release] in connection with 1994 mass killings that left over 500,000 people dead in gruesome ethnic violence. Colonel Théoneste Bagosora [case materials], Director of Cabinet in the Rwandan Ministry of Defence; Major Aloys Ntabakuze, commander of the Para Commando Battalion; and Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, commander of the Operational Sector of Gisenyi, were found guilty by 3 international judges on a panel of the UN-sponsored tribunal sitting in Arusha, Tanzania. The court found Bagasora responsible for the killing of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, President of the Constitutional Court Joseph Kavaruganda, and opposition party officials and government ministers Frédéric Nzamurambaho, Landoald Ndasingwa and Faustin Rucogoza. He was additionally found guilty in connection with the killing of ten Belgian peacekeepers, and was held responsible for organised killings perpetrated by soldiers and militiamen at various locations in the country in early April 1994. Ntabakuze was found guilty for killings committed by his soldiers, and Nsengiyumva was considered responsible for several massacres and targeted killings of civilians, including Tutsi refugees. A fourth officer, General Gratien Kabiligi, head of the military operations bureau (G-3) of the army general staff, was acquitted of all charges against him and ordered released. The court additonally acquitted all the accused of conspiring to commit genocide.

Delivering a summary [text, PDF] of an as-yet-unreleased judgement said to be some 500 pages long, Norwegian Judge Erik Moses said:
The judgement in this case, often called the Military I trial, is the result of several years of proceedings. Many of us in the courtroom today have been working with each other for most of its 409 trial days. We have considered the evidence of 242 witnesses from the Prosecution and Defence and poured through the more than 30,000 pages of transcripts, nearly 1,600 exhibits, and approximately 4,500 pages of the parties’ final submissions. The amount of evidence in this case is nearly eight times the size of an average single-accused case heard by the Tribunal. Innumerable pages of pleadings have resulted in about 300 written decisions...

The evidence of this trial has reiterated that genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes were perpetrated in Rwanda after 6 April 1994. The human suffering and slaughter were immense. These crimes were directed principally against Tutsi civilians as well as Hutus who were seen as sympathetic to the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) or as opponents of the ruling regime. The perpetrators included soldiers, gendarmes, civilian and party officials, Interahamwe and other militia, as well as ordinary citizens. Nevertheless, as the evidence in this case and the history of the Tribunal show, not every member of these groups committed crimes.

Also other persons than Tutsis and moderate Hutus suffered in 1994. The process of a criminal trial cannot depict the entire picture of what happened in Rwanda, even in a case of this magnitude.
On the Prosecution's contentious conspiracy argument, the court said:
The Chamber certainly accepts that there are indications which may be construed as evidence of a plan to commit genocide, in particular when viewed in light of the subsequent targeted and speedy killings immediately after the shooting down of the President’s plane. However, the evidence is also consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle and measures adopted in the context of an on-going war with the RPF that were used for other purposes from 6 April 1994.

Consequently, the Chamber is not satisfied that the Prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the evidence is that the four Accused conspired amongst themselves or with others to commit genocide before it unfolded from 7 April 1994.
The ICTR was established by the UN Security Council in 1994 to try those suspected of having committed genocide during the 1994 Rwandan conflict between Hutus and Tutsis. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1503 (2003) [PDF text], it was supposed to complete all trials by the end of the year, and to complete all of its work, including appellate review, by 2010. In June, however, the ICTR prosecutor asked the Council [JURIST report] to extend the ICTR's mandate, noting that the recent arrests of several genocide suspects meant that the court would not have time to finish several first-instance cases until 2009.



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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Illinois high court rejects AG bid to remove Blagojevich
Bernard Hibbitts at 7:54 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Illinois Supreme Court [official website] Wednesday rejected a bid by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan [official profile] to have Governor Rod Blagojevich [official website] temporarily removed from office [JURIST report] in the wake of corruption charges [complaint, PDF] laid against him last week in connection with his naming of a replacement to fill President-elect Barack Obama's now-vacant Senate seat. The order rejecting Madigan's motion to file a complaint [text, PDF] with the court was made without comment. In a statement [text] afterwards, Madigan said:
Because of Governor Blagojevich’s refusal to resign, the State of Illinois is in an unsustainable situation. The serious criminal charges against Governor Blagojevich strike directly at the heart of his decision-making process and seriously impede his ability to legitimately exercise the powers of his office. Thus, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the impeachment process move forward, the State is left with a Governor who cannot make effective decisions on critical and time-sensitive issues.

The Illinois Constitution expressly gives the Supreme Court the authority to determine whether the Governor has the ability to serve. Given this constitutional provision, on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois, I sought relief in the Illinois Supreme Court to temporarily remove Governor Blagojevich so that the State could continue to function while the U.S. Attorney and the General Assembly proceed. The Constitution does not require the Illinois Supreme Court to act.

I am hopeful that the General Assembly will act with deliberate speed. It is imperative that we begin to restore the People’s confidence in their government.
A committee of the Illinois House of Representatives began its impeachment investigation [JURIST report] of Blagojevich Tuesday, gathering evidence and testimony related to the charges. Hearings are expected to continue for several weeks. On Wednesday, lawyers for Blagojevich urged that Madigan be removed [letter, PDF] from her role as Blagojevich's official counsel in the committee proceeding given her high court filing to have him ousted from office [Chicago Tribune report]. If the committee recommends that Blagojevich be impeached, the recommendation will go to a vote before the entire House. If the House votes to impeach, the proceedings will go before the Senate, which will act as a jury with the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court presiding. This is Illinois's first impeachment inquiry involving a governor.



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Georgia court jails Muslim woman for not removing head scarf
Steve Czajkowski at 6:00 PM ET

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[JURIST] A Muslim woman in the US state of Georgia was arrested Tuesday and ordered to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court after she refused to remove her headscarf [JURIST news archive], or hijab, upon entering a security checkpoint in an Atlanta courtroom. Douglasville Municipal Court [official website] Judge Keith Rollins found Lisa Valentine in contempt [Atlanta Journal-constitution report] for violating a court policy that prohibits wearing headgear in court. Valentine, who also goes by her Islamic name Miedah, was released from jail later in the day after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [official website] called on the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to investigate the incident [press release], although jail officials did not confirm their reason for letting her go [AP report].

Religious headscarves have become controversial in several Western countries recently, as lawmakers struggle to balance an individual's right to practice their religion with public policy and security concerns. Earlier this month the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] unanimously ruled [press release; JURIST report] that there was no human rights violation when a French school expelled two students for refusing to remove their headscarves [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. In May, a US federal judge dismissed a federal lawsuit [JURIST reports] filed by a Muslim woman against a judge who asked her to remove her niqab in court. In September 2007, Canadian chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand resisted calls by Canadian lawmakers [JURIST report] to invoke his discretionary powers to require women to remove traditional Muslim niqabs or burqas when voting in elections in the province of Quebec.



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Russia rights activists warn new treason law raises Stalinist specter
Jaclyn Belczyk at 5:15 PM ET

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[JURIST] Russian civil rights activists Wednesday issued a statement warning that a proposed law that would change the definition of treason would allow the government to arrest any government critic [statement text, in Russian]. The proposed legislation extends the definition of treason [Moscow Times report] to include damage to Russia's constitutional order, sovereignty, or territorial integrity. Rights activists including Moscow Helsinki Group [advocacy website, in Russian] leader Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Civic Assistance leader Svetlana Gannushkina, called the move a "terrible blow" and a repetition of the Stalin regime. They called on members of parliament to reject the bill and for President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] not to sign the bill, should it be passed.

There has recently been a trend of increased government power in Russia. Last week, the Russian Duma [official website, in Russian] approved a bill that would end jury trials on charges of terrorism and treason [JURIST report]. In July 2007, then-President Vladimir Putin approved amendments to Russia's law against extremism [JURIST report]. An international panel of jurists reported earlier that year that expanded Russian anti-terrorism laws were leading to human rights abuses [JURIST report]. In 2006, Putin signed a bill giving Russian police and military broad authority [JURIST report] to tap telephone conversations and control electronic communications in the vicinity of counter-terror operations, shoot down hijacked planes threatening public places or strategic facilities, and deal with the aftermath of terrorist attacks.



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ICTY convicts Kosovo political figures for interfering with Haradinaj witnesses
Jaclyn Belczyk at 4:41 PM ET

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[JURIST] Two prominent Kosovar Albanians were found guilty of contempt [press release; judgment summary, PDF] Wednesday in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. Former Kosovo minister for Culture, Youth and Sport Astrit Haraqija was sentenced to five months in prison, and Bajrush Morina, former political advisor to the Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport and a part-time journalist was sentenced to three months for interfering with a witness during the trial of former Kosovo Albanian military leader Ramush Haradinaj [ICTY materials, PDF; JURIST news archive]. The trial chamber found that Haraqija exercised influence over Morina and that Morina told a witness that other witnesses who had testified against Haradinaj had been killed. The court found:
[I]t was clear that Bajrush Morina's words were intended and could only be understood as a strong and unequivocal call on Witness 2 to refrain from testifying in the Haradinaj et al. case. In the Trial Chamber's view, such behaviour constituted intimidation.
The court also found that Haraqija abused his political position.

In July, the ICTY convicted a Kosovar journalist [JURIST report] of exposing the identity of a witness involved with the Haradinaj trial. Haradinaj was a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], the ethnic Albanian guerrilla force that opposed Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war [BBC backgrounder]. He was indicted [initial indictment text] by ICTY prosecutors in 2005. Haradinaj was acquitted [JURIST report] in April, but former Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte’s claims of witness intimidation have brought the proceedings under scrutiny. Prosecutors are now appealing.



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Turkish court combines judge killing, coup cases
Jaclyn Belczyk at 3:23 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Turkish Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a lawyer accused of killing a judge and merged the case with the trial of a right-wing group accused of plotting a coup. Alparslan Arslan was sentenced to life in prison in February for the May 2006 killing of Judge Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin in protest of a February 2006 ruling [JURIST reports] by the court permitting a school to deny promotion to a teacher because she wore a religious headscarf. Arslan's case will be merged with the trial of 86 defendants accused of attempting to destabilize and overthrow the country's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website]. The accused are said to belong to the secular Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder] group, believed responsible for bombing the headquarters of the newspaper Cumhuriyet [newspaper website, in Turkish], assassinating Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], and planning other attacks to provoke a military coup to topple the AKP. The court found that the killing of the judge and the coup plot are related [Hurriyet report] and consolidated the cases. The issue will now be whether the case should be heard in Ankara [Today's Zaman report], where Arslan was originally convicted, or in Istanbul, where the coup trial is taking place.

The alleged members of Ergenekon were indicted [JURIST report] in July. Among them are journalists, intellectuals, and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [personal website, in Turkish; JURIST report]. Two former generals were also arrested [JURIST report] in connection with the alleged plot. The trial began in October and resumed [JURIST reports] after being adjourned because of "chaos" in the courtroom.



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UN justice office urges more cooperation on combating piracy
Jaclyn Belczyk at 2:30 PM ET

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[JURIST] The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] on Tuesday called for greater judicial cooperation to combat piracy [press release] off the coast of Somalia. UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa [official profile] said that while pirates should ideally be tried in their home country or in the country that owns the seized ship, this is not always feasible because, "the Somali criminal justice system has collapsed, and countries like Liberia, Panama, and the Marshall Islands - where many of the ships are registered - do not want to deal with crimes committed thousands of miles away." Costa proposed strengthening regional justice systems by helping countries implement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime [text, PDF] and combating piracy on the land by dismantling pirates' bases and support networks. Costa concluded that, "Piracy is organized crime, and should be confronted as such." Also on Tuesday, the UN Security Council [official website] passed a resolution authorizing states to use land-based operations [press release and text] to combat piracy in Somalia. The measure, pushed by the US [IHT report] won unanimous support.

Last month, eight suspected Somali pirates were charged [JURIST report] in a Kenyan court [Kenya judiciary website] after being turned over to Kenyan officials by the British Royal Navy. In October, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838 [text, PDF; press release], condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to "deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia." Although maritime piracy is increasingly widespread, Somalia's coast has been ranked as the most dangerous in the world [BBC report] due to a surge in attacks on ships carrying traded goods or humanitarian aid [NPR report]. Somalia has not had an effective government for 17 years. It was recently ranked as one of the world's most corrupt countries [JURIST report] and its transitional government has only a tenuous hold over the country's capital. In October 2007 the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) [advocacy website], which tracks incidents of maritime piracy worldwide [IMP materials], reported [press release] that incidents of piracy and armed attacks against ships off the Somalian and Nigerian coasts have risen 14% from 2006.



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Indonesia province postpones decision to implant HIV/AIDS patients with microchips
Jaclyn Belczyk at 1:52 PM ET

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[JURIST] The legislature in the Papua [official website, in Indonesian] province of Indonesia [JURIST news archive] announced Tuesday that it will postpone a decision on whether to implant certain individuals infected with HIV/AIDS [JURIST news archive] with microchips to monitor their movements. A vote scheduled for next week will be put off in response to human rights concerns [Jakarta Post report]. The bill would have attempted to monitor the activities of individuals who are infected with HIV/AIDS whom the government has deemed "sexually aggressive" or more likely to spread the virus. Local officials acknowledged that the policy is extreme but are concerned with the rapid spread of HIV throughout the Papua region, which has the highest number of HIV/AIDS patients in Indonesia. AIDS activists have sharply criticized the policy, which they see as demeaning to people who are living with HIV/AIDS. The legislature is expected to rule on less controversial HIV/AIDS control measures in the coming week.

The legislation was introduced [JURIST report] last month. Other countries have also been examining or changing strict policies concerning HIV/AIDS. Indian officials are investigating the legality [JURIST report] of a ban that prohibits individuals who are HIV positive from serving in the military. China has recently relaxed [JURIST report] a ban against entering the country for any person who is HIV-positive.



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Iraq cabinet approves legislation for foreign troop withdrawal
Jaclyn Belczyk at 11:38 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Iraqi cabinet on Wednesday approved draft legislation that would require most non-US foreign troops to leave Iraq by mid-2009. The legislation must now be submitted to the Iraqi parliament [official website] for approval. A government spokesperson said that Iraq would retain the right to ask some countries to stay [DPA report]. Also on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] announced that British troops will withdraw [press release] from Iraq by July 2009.

US troops may remain in Iraq until 2011 under the recently approved [JURIST report] Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF; CFR backgrounder]. The SOFA, which takes effect at the end of the year, also gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction [JURIST report] over American military personnel and eliminates immunity [JURIST report] for US defense contractors working within Iraq.



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DC council passes legislation increasing gun owner requirements
Jay Carmella at 11:24 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Council of the District of Columbia [official website] passed legislation [introduction, PDF] Tuesday increasing the requirements of gun owners in Washington, DC. The legislation contains a number of provisions that the city council hopes will make it more difficult for criminals obtain weapons [NYT report] and make it easier for law enforcement officers to track them down. The requirements include owners registering their weapon every three years, receiving five hours of training from a qualified instructor, and undergoing a background check every six years. In addition, the legislation provides that by 2011 certain weapons will be marked to facilitate law enforcement officers in finding violent offenders. The National Rifle Association (NRA) [advocacy website] believes that the legislation is another example [AP report] of the Council trying to make it harder for law-abiding citizens to own guns.

In June, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] prohibited [JURIST report] the District of Columbia from banning private handgun ownership in the landmark case of District of Columbia v. Heller [opinion, PDF]. The Court found that the Second Amendment bestows upon citizens an individual right to own firearms for lawful purposes. The ruling has not stopped the Council from trying to control gun ownership. Since June, the Council has passed measures to limit the types of weapons that citizens can own, as well as the circumstances under which they are allowed to own them, including a resolution [text, PDF] passed in September to restrict the use of guns in the home to self defense purposes.



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US transfers 39 detained Saddam-era officials to Iraq government
Jay Carmella at 10:14 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US military reported on Tuesday the transfer of 39 high-value detainees [press release] from the custody of US-led multinational force to an Iraqi controlled prison. The detainees were all former members of the regime of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], and have already been convicted or are scheduled to stand trial at the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) [JURST news archive]. According the US military, the transfer was facilitated by the improvements made in the Iraqi prison system and courts. More than 15,000 detainees remain in the custody of the coalition.

The recent transfer of detainees to the Iraqi government is part of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF; CFR backgrounder] passed last month [JURIST report]. Under the SOFA, the coalition must transfer the remaining detainees into the custody of the Iraqi government. Detainees who have not been charged with a crime will be released. A recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report criticized the CCCI [JURIST report], stating that detainees often wait months or even years before standing trial. The report also alleged that trials in the CCCI often do not meet international fair trial standards.



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SEC launching investigation of failure to act on Madoff fraud scheme
Jaclyn Belczyk at 8:35 AM ET

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[JURIST] US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] Chairman Christopher Cox [official profile] on Tuesday said that he would launch an immediate investigation [press release] into how the fraud allegedly perpetrated by Bernard Madoff went undetected for so long. The SEC filed charges [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] last week in New York against Madoff and his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC [archived website] for an alleged $50 billion fraud scheme. Cox said:
Since Commissioners were first informed of the Madoff investigation last week, the Commission has met multiple times on an emergency basis to seek answers to the question of how Mr. Madoff's vast scheme remained undetected by regulators and law enforcement for so long. Our initial findings have been deeply troubling. The Commission has learned that credible and specific allegations regarding Mr. Madoff’s financial wrongdoing, going back to at least 1999, were repeatedly brought to the attention of SEC staff, but were never recommended to the Commission for action. I am gravely concerned by the apparent multiple failures over at least a decade to thoroughly investigate these allegations or at any point to seek formal authority to pursue them.
Cox announced that there would be a "full and immediate review" of these allegations. The SEC will also look into relationships between SEC officials and Madoff's family members, including Madoff's niece, who married a former SEC lawyer in 2007. In related news, Madoff is scheduled to appear in court [Reuters report] Wednesday for a bail hearing.

On Saturday, UK financial firm Bramdean Alternatives Limited [corporate website] raised concerns [statement, DOC; JURIST report] about the US financial regulatory process after its value dropped by more than 35 percent following news of its exposure to the fraud. Madoff has been charged with violating the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 [texts]. Madoff allegedly told two employees of his firm last week that his investment advisory business was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme." Madoff, 70, founded his investment firm in 1960. He has served as chairman of the board of directors of the NASDAQ [official website] stock market and was a member of the board of governors of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD). According to his firm's website, it ranked among the top 1 percent of US securities firms.



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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

US transfers three Algerian Guantanamo detainees to Bosnia
Jaclyn Belczyk at 4:47 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Tuesday announced [press release] that three Algerian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees have been transferred to their adopted homeland of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The transfer follows a November ruling [order, PDF; JURIST report] by Judge Richard Leon [official profile] of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] that five Algerian detainees must be released immediately. The three men, Mustafa Ait Idir, Mohamed Nechla, and Hadj Boudella were transferred to Bosnia Tuesday night, while two others remain in custody. The three transferred detainees are expected to be released [AP report] to their families.

One of the remaining two detainees is Lakhdar Boumediene, the man at the center of the US Supreme Court's landmark decision in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees who have been classified as "enemy combatants." Leon ruled in November that five of six detainees should be released because the government's evidence was insufficient to persuade him that the men were planning to travel to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda and were not properly classified as "enemy combatants." Leon ordered that a sixth detainee, Belkacem ben Sayah, remain in custody because the government's evidence against him was sufficient to label him an enemy combatant. In October, Leon ruled [order, PDF; JURIST report] that in order to be validly held as "enemy combatants," Guantanamo Bay detainees must have directly supported hostilities against the US or its allies, setting the standard that the government must use to justify their detention.



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ABOUT

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.

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Paper Chase welcomes comments, tips and URLs from readers. E-mail us at JURIST@pitt.edu