Jurist

Burma passes restrictive population control bill

Burma's President Thein Sein on May 23 signed into law a bill requiring some mothers to space the births of their children three years apart. The Population Control Health Care bill, passed by parliament last month, allows authorities the power to implement "birth-spacing" in areas with high rates of population growth. Though the bill has no punitive measures, US deputy secretary of state Anthony Blinken and rights activists worry it will be used to repress women's rights as well as religious and ethnic minority rights. Speaking on the matter, Blinken stated: "We shared the concerns that these bills can exacerbate ethnic and religious divisions and undermine the country's efforts to promote tolerance and diversity." The government claims the bill and three others like it were aimed at bringing down maternal and infant mortality rates and protecting women and minorities, but activists argue that there are better ways to accomplish this goal.

Peru declares martial law at disputed mine site

The government of Peru on May 23 declared a two-month period of martial law in the southern region of Arequipa where residents are protesting the construction of a copper mine. Martial law allows police to enter homes without search warrants, as well as to break up protests and meetings. Southern Copper Corporation plans to build a copper mine known as Tia Maria for $1.4 billion, which residents strongly feel will contaminate the water and air in the region, and will be detrimental to the local farming economy. Protests have continued for over two months and often turn violent, even after the government approved the company's environmental study last year that claimed the company could operate a clean mine. The government had already sent in over 4,000 police officers and 1,000 soldiers to the area to control the protests, which have resulted in the deaths one police officer and three protesters. José Ramos Carrera, mayor of Punta de Bombon, stated that the martial law declaration "shows is that the government wants the mine to go ahead at all costs."

Israel court orders release of Palestinian lawmaker

A military court in Israel on May 21 ordered Palestinian lawmaker, Khalida Jarrar, be released on bail. Under the terms of her release, she is to pay a 20,000-shekel ($5,000) bond with a third-party guarantee. She is to be held three additional days pending a possible appeal. Jarrar, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was arrested last month by the Israeli military for incitement and involvement in terrorist activities after she disobeyed an Israel-ordered restriction from movement in the West Bank. She was placed under Israeli administrative detention, a system Israel says exists to prevent attacks by militants. Under administrative detention, individuals may be held captive for up to six months without being charged. The detention may be extended under a judge's approval, and evidence regarding the arrest may be withheld if deemed necessary. Some have called Jarrar's arrest a politically-fueled act, as Jarrar was instrumental in the Palestinian Authority's bid to formally join the International Criminal Court

Kuwait upholds sentence against opposition leader

Kuwait's Supreme Court on May 18 upheld the two-year prison sentence against activist Musallam al-Barrack for insulting Kuwait's ruler. Al-Barrack, a former lawmaker, was originally sentenced to five years in prison, but that sentence was later shortened on appeal to two years. The case against al-Barrack began after he gave a speech in October 2012 in which he urged Kuwait's ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah not to "drag the country into a dark abyss" while charging that Kuwait risked becoming an autocratic state under new electoral laws. In March 2013 a protest in Kuwait City consisting of hundreds of al-Barrack's supporters turned violent as it marched toward the parliament building. Police used batons against the protesters and arrested at least a dozen. Al-Barrack was also arrested in 2014 after he revealed documents showing large sums of illegal financial transfers made to senior officials, including judges. After his arrest, more violent protests ensued. Al-Barrack's lawyer stated that his client will surrender to authorities once court paperwork is complete.

Serbia: court clears accused Nazi collaborator

A Serbian court on May 14 politically rehabilitated a World War II royalist executed nearly 70 years ago on convictions of collaborating with the Nazis. Serbian nationalist Dragoljub "Draza" Mihailovic was an officer of the royal army when the Nazis invaded. Mihailovic allegedly began collaborating with the invaders and joined with them against their common enemy, communist Josip Broz Tito. After Tito prevailed in 1945, Mihailovic was convicted of collaboration and committing war crimes. He was secretly executed and buried in an unknown location. In 2010 Mihailovic's grandson petitioned the courts to rehabilitate him, claiming that his grandfather had actually been fighting both Nazis and communists. The judge agreed , finding that the case against Mihailovic was politically motivated. Croatia called the ruling an outrage.

Burundi arrests military officers in coup attempt

Burundi authorities arrested several military generals May 15 after an unsuccessful coup attempt and said the suspects will face a military court for mutiny charges. Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare [who fought alongside Hutu rebels in the 1993-2005 civil war] announced the coup on May 13. President Pierre Nkurunziza was in Tanzania at the time the coup was announced but is believed to be back in his country. In Bujumbura, troops supporting the president and those supporting Niyombare fought on the streets for two days after the declared coup. Following the announcement, the airport in Bujumbura and the land borders were closed, but the streets reportedly calmed by May 15.

Poland to pay alleged CIA rendition victims

The Polish government on May 15 processed payments to two terror suspects currently held by the US at Guantánamo Bay. The European Court of Human Rights had imposed a deadline of the following day on Poland to make the reparations. Last July Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were awarded $147,000 and $113,000, respectively, in a lawsuit against Poland for allowing the CIA to detain them and for not preventing torture and inhumane treatment. The court also ordered Poland to urge the US not to execute the suspects. Many people in Poland are upset with the penalty, feeling they must pay for US actions, and many Americans are upset at the idea that possible terror suspects could receive this money. The detainees' lawyer, however, claims there rights were violated, they were subjected to torture, and they have never been found guilty of a crime in court.

Prominent China rights lawyer formally indicted

Chinese prosecutors on May 15 said that prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has officially been indicted on charges of fanning ethnic hatred and provoking unrest for comments that he posted online. He has already been detained for one year. A more severe charge of inciting divisions and a charge of illegally obtaining personal information were dropped by prosecutors. In a statement the Beijing prosecutors' office said that the human rights lawyer should face criminal prosecution for comments he made on social media and his microblog, which has since been shut down by authorities as a disruption of social order. The US State Department urged Chinese authorities to release Pu earlier this month and respect his rights in accordance with the country's international human rights commitments, but China refused to release him. According to one of Pu's lawyers, the charges could result in a maximum sentence of 10 years, though it is unlikely that such a sentence will be imposed. Pu continues to reject the charges and maintain his innocence, asserting that the case is baseless and politically motivated.

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