Jurist

US: Afghanistan hospital attack not a war crime

US Central Command released its final report April 29 on the October air-strike that hit a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, finding that the strike was not a war crime. The investigation concluded that the gunship's ground crew and operators were not aware they were firing on a medical facility. Because there was no intent to fire upon a medical facility, there was no war crime, the report concluded. US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter expressed his condolences in remarks and sent a memorandum (PDF) directing specific actions to prevent future incidents. Sixteen individuals are reportedly facing discipline for their roles in the attack. MSF said it will review the report and reiterated calls for an independent investigation.

Papua New Guinea rules 'Australia's Gitmo' illegal

The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled April 26 that Australia's detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island in northern Papua New Guinea is illegal. The court found that the detention center violates article 42 of Papua New Guinea's constitution, which guarantees personal liberty. The court ordered both governments to take steps to end the detention. Australia's Minister for Immigration and Border Protection said  that the ruling, "does not alter Australia's border protection policies—they remain unchanged. No one who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will settle in Australia." There are currently about 850 detainees on Manus Island, half of whom have been determined to be refugees.

Mexico: probe into missing students blocked

A panel of experts released on April 24 its second and last report (PDF) on its inquiry into the 43 undergraduate students from a teachers college in Ayotzinapa who went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014, stating that the Mexican government has hampered the investigation. Consisting of Latin American lawyers and human rights activists, the panel of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found the following: some of the suspects had been tortured by government security forces; the integrity of evidence had been compromised in the case; new evidence showed a greater role by federal security forces in the 2014 events; a lack of investigation into high-level officials; a lack of investigation into phone records from that night; and "sclerotic bureaucracy" throughout the justice system. The experts brought together the events leading up to the disappearances of the students through witness testimony and ballistic tests; they concluded that "the join action [of the attackers and officials] shows a coordinated modus operandi..." 

Court dismisses request for drone records

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 21 upheld a district court's dismissal of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about the US government's use of drones for "targeted killings." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sought to obtain legal memoranda on drone use as well as compilations of data on government strikes that can detail who intended targets were, locations of strikes, and how many people have been killed, among other information. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) argued that the documents are exempt from disclosure, and the lower court granted summary judgment in their favor. The appeals court agreed with the CIA that the requested documents were properly classified and exempt from FOIA requests because they pertain to intelligence activities and/or foreign activities of the US. The court also agreed with the CIA that there we no "segregable portions" of the documents which could be disclosed.

Iraq: protesters demand new government

People began protesting in Baghdad this weekend demanding a new government amid the third parliament session cancelled this week as officials discuss political reforms. The session of parliament was cancelled because the chambers "could not be secured" as tempers flared again. The political turmoil has been the result of a plan by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to bring "technocrats" into the cabinet in order to bring down corruption. On March 31, al-Abadi presented a list of people to attempt to accomplish this, but then drafted a second list after political pressure that was more in line with party's wishes. Many MP's then staged a sit-in protest of this move, as they believed it would allow corruption to continue.

Nine Gitmo detainees transfered to Saudi Arabia

The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced the transfer of nine Yemeni Guantánamo Bay detainees to Saudi Arabia on April 16 as it continues efforts to close the facility. The prisoners would have been sent back to their home country but were instead transfer to Saudi Arabia due to the instability in Yemen. Eight of the detainees had been cleared for release since 2009, after an extensive review, and 26 more are also cleared and expected to be released this summer. At the end of March, a US government official said the DoD told Congress that it plans to transfer as many as 12 prisoners from Guantánamo in the coming weeks. Eighty detainees remain at the facility.

Mass deportations to Turkey must stop: rights groups

Several aid organizations urged EU leaders on April 14 to stop deportations of migrants from Greece to Turkey and to stop detaining asylum seekers. Oxfam, Norwegian Refugee Council and Solidarity Now took part in the joint letter. The deportations are part of a deal struck last month between Turkey and EU leaders in which all migrants crossing the Aegean into Greece would be sent back to Turkey. The rights groups report that thousands of migrants are being held in detention camps in Greece and many are returned to Turkey without proper asylum hearings. The "fast-track" expedited asylum hearings adopted by Greece are also of concern, they say, because important decisions and examinations concerning asylum are made by understaffed agencies in only one day. The rights groups are also calling for EU to open all camps housing asylum seekers, increase the number of asylum officers in Greece, and improve security in the facilities.

China: lawyer detained for post mocking president

Ge Yongxi, a civil rights defense lawyer, was detained and released April 15 by Chinese authorities for posts on social media that "poked fun" at President Xi Jinping in relation to the Panama Papers. The president's brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui, was named—along with a handful of elite Chinese citizens—in the data leak from a Panamanian law firm that exposed offshore accounts held by prominent politicians and others across the globe. Information about the Panama Papers has been censored across China with websites in that country "forbidden" from publishing material about the subject. Ge was also detained 10 months ago and questioned by authorities for being involved in a lawyers' rights movement.

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