Jurist

Judge rejects challenge from Gitmo detainee

A federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia on July 30 rejected a legal challenge from a Guantánamo Bay detainee who claimed that his detention at the naval base was illegal. Muktar Yahya Najee al-Warafi from Yemen was captured in Afghanistan and has been held at Guantánamo since 2002. In his challenge, he claimed that his imprisonment was unlawful due to recent statement by President Barack Obama that hostilities between the US and the Taliban have ended. Warafi brought the action under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), arguing that the stated end of hostilities made it unlawful to continue holding him. However, Judge Royce C. Lamberth wrote that the government had presented "convincing evidence that US involvement in the fighting in Afghanistan, against al-Qaida and Taliban forces alike, has not stopped... A court cannot look to political speeches alone to determine factual and legal realities merely because doing so would be easier than looking at all the relevant evidence." Warafi has yet to decide if he will appeal.

Libya court sentences Qaddafi son to death

A court in Tripoli sentenced Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of former Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, and eight others to death for war crimes dating back to the 2011 revolution. Twenty-three other defendants were handed sentences ranging from five years to life in prison. The sentence for Saif al-Islam was handed down in absentia, as he is currently detained by a militia in the city of Zintan. Saif al-Islam and others were accused of suppressing peaceful protests, inciting violence, and murdering protesters. The sentences have been criticized by many international advocacy groups, including Human Rights Watch, which stated the trial was "undermined by serious due process violations" and failed to deliver justice.

China allows first pollution suit under new law

China's Qingdao Maritime Court on July 27 ruled that a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips China and China National Offshore Oil for a 2011 oil spill can proceed. The suit was brought by the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation and it the first case to proceed since the country revised a law (LoC backgrounder) allowing NGOs to directly sue polluters in the public interest. The Chinese government ha salready fined the companies approximately $258 million for the spill. Other cases are also pending under the law, which became effective on Jan. 1.

Tunisia parliament approves new anti-terror law

Tunisia's parliament on July 25 voted to approve a new anti-terror law despite strong criticism from NGOs and human rights groups. The law, which replaces 2003 legislation passed under the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was adopted following a June attack in Sousse and a March attack on Tunisia's national museum, both claimed by the Islamic State. The adoption of the law came after three days of parliamentary debate and a vote of 174-0 with 10 abstentions. Though the law has been hailed by some as a great step towards making the country safer, Human Rights Watch claims that it will "open the way to prosecuting political dissent as terrorism, give judges overly broad powers and curtail lawyers' ability to provide an effective defense." Part of the concern for the bill, advocacy groups say, comes from the law's vague definition of terrorist crimes and its failure to provide enough protection for the rights of defendants. Leftist opposition members also contend that the law does not distinguish between acts of terror and protests.

Discrimination case settled against Arizona sheriff

The US Department of Justice and county officials in Phoenix on July 15 agreed to settle parts of a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in 2012. The DoJ filed charges against the Sheriff's Office for discriminatory practices in traffic stops, work and home raids, and in county jails, as well as claims of retaliation. The settlementreached with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors did not address the allegation that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's agency racially profiled Latinos when making traffic stops in their effort to prevent illegal immigration. Supervisor Steve Gallardo said the settlement is in the best interest of saving tax-payer's money by avoiding an expensive trial. The remaining issue will proceed to a scheduled Aug. 10 trial in the US District Court for the District of Arizona.

North Cameroon bans burqas after suicide blasts

After suicide bombings July 11 in Fotokol by two women wearing burqas, Northern Cameroon this week banned women from wearing burqas and face-covering veils [hijab]. The suicide bombers smuggled the bombs into public areas by hiding them under their veils. The attack, initiated by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, killed at least 14 people. As part of the ban, it was also decided by government officials that Muslims are not permitted to meet in large groups without permission. The governor of Cameroon's Far North Region, Midjiyawa Bakari, plans to increase security and further investigate the unexpected bombings. Some have protested the new ban, arguing that wearing a burqa is not a choice and that it is necessary to wear for religious reasons. However, government officials plan to keep the ban in effect as long as necessary to prevent further attacks.

Guatemala political money linked to criminality

The UN International Commission Against Impunity on July 18 reported that approximately a quarter of the money used for Guatemalan political campaigns is from criminal groups. The main criminal group being drug traffickers. The report also indicated that government contractors themselves contribute to more than half of the funds. Ian Velásquez, head of the commission, stated: "Corruption is the unifying element of the Guatemalan political system based on an amalgam of interests that include politicians, officials, public entities, businessmen, non-governmental organizations and criminal groups." The report suggested several campaign finance reforms including limiting private funding, strengthening institutional coordination, and reforming the system itself.

Bahrain releases ailing rights advocate

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on July 13 released the president of the Bahrain Center for Human RightsNabeel Rajab, citing health reasons. Despite the release, the US State Department and Rajab himself expressed concern over continued efforts to limit free speech in the country. The State Department said recent events, including the re-arrest of opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif, detention and prosecution of Bahraini opposition figure Majeed Milad, and reopening of a case against Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq political opposition group, all threaten the "universal right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a party."

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