Jurist

China: writer detained for articles critical of official

Chinese writer Huang Zerong, 81, known also by his pen name Tie Liu, was detained by Chinese authorities Sept. 14 for allegedly publishing articles critical of Communist Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan (Brookings backgrounder). According to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, the 81-year-old writer was criminally detained on charges of 'picking quarrels and provoking trouble.'" Huang spent 23 years in prison after being labeled a "rightist" by the Chinese regime during Mao Zedong's crackdown on liberals. His name was later cleared by the Communist Party in 1980.

Rights experts to Bahrain: release political activist

Independent UN rights experts on Sept. 5 called on the government of Bahrain to release human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja  due to the absence of evidence against her. Al-Khawaja was arrested in August upon her return to Bahrain and was charged with insulting the king and assaulting police officers. According to a post on Al-Khawaja's twitter account, she has not been permitted to see a lawyer since her arrest. The rights experts expressed concern at the rash of apparent political imprisonment of individuals expressing their freedom of opinion, particularly human rights activists.

Lebanon: punishment for burning ISIS flag?

Lebanon's Minister of Justice  on Aug. 30 called for the "sternest punishments" for the individuals in Beirut who burned the flag of the militant groups ISIS and the Nusra Front. It is reported that Minister Ashraf Rifi issued a highly criticized statement which has urged the Lebanon state prosecutor to bring charges against the individuals who participated in the public flag-burning at Sassine Square in Beriut. Minister Rifi claims that the flag-burning was insulting to the faith of Islam because inscribed on the ISIS flag includes the Shahada or declaration of Muslim faith, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet." Under Lebanese law, it is illegal to defame religious symbols. Pictures of the individuals burning the fags were discovered on Facebook. The action was a response to the recent beheading of a member of the Lebanese armed forces by ISIS.

India: high court rules coal mining licenses illegal

The Supreme Court of India ruled (PDF) Aug. 25 that all coal mining licenses awarded between 1993 and 2010 are illegal. The court found that the licenses failed to comply with the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957 (PDF); Section 3(3)(a)(iii) of the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act of 1973 (PDF); and the principle of trusteeship of natural resources. The ruling cited arbitrariness, lack of transparency, lack of objectivity, allotment tainted with mala fides and corruption, and made in favor of ineligible companies tainted with mala fides and corruption. The court will now decide if 218 such licenses should be canceled.

Ex-Gitmo detainee appeals conviction

Australian citizen David Hicks filed a motion (PDF) to dismiss his conviction in the US Court of Military Commission Review on Aug. 20 after pleading guilty in 2007 for war crimes that took place before 2001 in exchange for his release. Hicks was captured in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2011, and brought to the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay the day that it opened. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Joseph Margulies filed a motion asking the military commission to vacate Hicks' conviction for "material support for terrorism," following the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit's 2012 decision in Hamdan v. United States (PDF), which held that material support for terrorism is not a war crime and, thus, is beyond the jurisdiction of military commissions. Hicks' original appeal in November was stayed pending the ruling in Al-Bahlul v. United States (PDF), which similarly held last month that material support is not a war crime and cannot be tried by military commission. Hicks was the first person to be convicted in a military commission. After his release from Guantánamo, Hicks returned to Australia under a one-year gag order that prohibited him from speaking to the media. As part of his plea, he was also prevented from taking legal action against the US and required to withdraw allegations that the US military abused him.

Kenya anti-terror police group charged in abuses

Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) has carried out a series of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in violation of international laws, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Aug. 18. Based on interview research conducted between November 2013 and June 2014, terrorism suspects were badly mistreated, killed, beaten, abducted and detained without access to families or lawyers. HRW called on Kenya to thoroughly investigate the allegations and urged the US to suspend donor support to the ATPU. The ATPU has previously come under criticism by other human rights groups. Last year the Kenyan human rights group Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative jointly issued a report, calling on the US and the UK to suspend financial support to the ATPU. The report followed the completion of a new ATPU headquarters in Nairobi in May, which was partially funded by international anti-terror agencies. The facility increased technological capabilities and physical space for the ATPU, whose mission is to coordinate and carry out anti-terrorism operations within Kenya in support of the global war on terror. The unit's primary focus of late is Kenya's second-largest city, Mombasa, as the port city has become a major recruitment target for the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab, based in Somalia.

Egypt bans Muslim Brotherhood political wing

The Supreme Administrative Court in Egypt on Aug. 9 dissolved the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. The decision came after the Parties Affairs Committee (PAC), responsible for granting licenses to newly-formed parties in Egypt, issued a report recommending that the party be banned, citing violations of the political parties code of conduct. The FJP was the first party to be approved by the PAC after the revolution. The decision is final.

UN rights chief calls for end to Gaza 'impunity'

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on July 31 urged the international community to end what she called a "climate of impunity" around the Israel-Palestine conflict. In light of the bombardment of a UN school in Gaza the previous day, Pillay called for "real accountability considering the increasing evidence of war crimes and an ever-growing number of civilian casualties, including some 250 children."

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