November 26, 2007
British Court Upholds the Right of Mothers Not to Tell Fathers about Babies
From the guardian.com: A British woman who conceived a child after a one-night stand with a colleague and hid her pregnancy from everyone has won the right to keep the birth a secret from the father.
The woman, who is now 20 and cannot be named for legal reasons, became pregnant when she was 19, but did not realise until a late stage. She told no one, shunned medical help until she went into labour, and put the girl up for adoption as soon as she was born.
In September, after an application from the local authority, a county court judge ruled that the woman's parents and the father of the child should be told. But yesterday, three appeal judges overruled him and, in a landmark judgment, agreed that the mother has "the ultimate veto" over who should be told about her child.
They ordered that the local authority and guardian take no steps to identify the father or tell him about the birth of the girl, who is now 19 weeks old. They also banned the authority from introducing the girl to any of the mother's family to assess them as potential carers. Her family had found out about the child during the proceedings after the local authority wrote to them by mistake.
None of the names and locations of those involved in the case can be published by order of the court to protect the mother's wishes that the father should never know about his child.
Lady Justice Arden said the county court judge had made his order because he believed the local authority had a duty under the law to find out as much information about the background of the family as it could. But she said: "In my judgment, when a decision requires to be made about the long-term care of a child, whom a mother wishes to be adopted, there is no duty to make inquiries which it is not in the interests of the child to make, and inquiries are not in the interests of the child simply because they will provide more information about the child's background.
"They must genuinely further the prospect of finding a long-term carer for the child without delay. This interpretation does not violate the right to family life."
She said that the judge had directed himself according to the wrong principle, and that the appeal must be allowed.
Lord Justice Thorpe described the case as "on any view extraordinary". "I need only refer to the mother's success in concealing the pregnancy from her family, her employers and her fellow employees," he said. "Her immediate request that her daughter should be placed for adoption at the earliest opportunity was entirely consistent with all that she had done and all that she had not done prior to the delivery."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
November 25, 2007
For the First Time, the Number of People Given Life Sentences Outnumbers People Immediately Executed in China
From chinadaily.com: For the first time in New China's history, the number of criminals given death sentences with a two-year reprieve - which usually translate into life imprisonment - have this year outnumbered those sentenced to immediate execution, the country's top judge said on Friday.
This reflects the new trend since the Supreme People's Court (SPC) took back the right to review death sentences from local courts on January 1, Chief Justice Xiao Yang said.
"The number of death sentences has been gradually decreasing and human rights are being better protected," Xiao told a national work conference on court reform, without elaborating.
Capital punishment should be given "only to an extremely small number of serious offenders", he said.
"The judicial reform process has been progressing smoothly, with leniency shown in a growing number of criminal trials," he said.
In Jiangxi Province, the number of death sentences with immediate execution issued up to October was just half what it was in the same period last year, Kang Weimin, president of the provincial high people's court, said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
November 07, 2007
ACLU Will Monitor Guantanamo Bay Hearing
From aclu.org: The American Civil Liberties Union will be at Guantánamo Bay Thursday to monitor the military commission hearing of Canadian national Omar Ahmed Khadr. The proceeding follows months of disarray and uncertainty about the U.S. government’s system of prosecuting prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay without charges or trial. The ACLU is one of four organizations that have been granted status as human rights observers at the military commission proceedings and has observed the tribunals since they began in 2004.
“The Guantánamo proceedings must be changed so that they are consistent with constitutional and international law, and we will continue to do our part by monitoring them and documenting the problems,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “So far, the proceedings have failed miserably to uphold America’s commitment to due process and the rule of law.”
Khadr, now 21, was 15 years old when he was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He is the first detainee to face a military commission since June when charges against him and a Yemeni prisoner, Salim Hamdan, were thrown out by military judges who said the commission lacked proper jurisdictional authority to prosecute them. The military judges ruled that the two defendants had not been designated “unlawful enemy combatants” as required under the Military Commission Act signed into law by President Bush in October 2006.
The U.S. government appealed the dismissal of the cases, and the newly established U.S. Court of Military Commission Review – a panel of three military officers appointed by the Pentagon – reinstated the charges in September by deciding that the military commission judges have the authority to decide whether detainees should be deemed “unlawful” enemy combatants. Despite an appeal filed by Khadr’s lawyers with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the military judge in Khadr’s case, Col. Peter Brownback, will hear the case Thursday. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
November 06, 2007
Egyptian Judge Sentences Officers in Torture Case
From washingtonpost.com: An Egyptian judge sentenced two police officers Monday to three years in prison for presiding over the 2006 torture of a 21-year-old minivan driver in a Cairo police station.
The abuse of Emad el-Kabir became a landmark in Egyptian rights cases -- not because of the police torture, which rights groups say occurs daily here, but because police recorded the torture on a cellphone video camera.
Egyptian bloggers obtained the clip and posted it on the online video site YouTube spurred greater reporting of torture in Egypt and heightened international criticism of human rights abuses by Egyptian authorities.
Kabir, now 22, thrust his hands in the air in victory when court officials announced the conviction and sentence Monday. "Thank God!" he shouted.
"I've regained my rights," Kabir said. "I don't want anything more than that."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 11, 2007
American Freed From Iranian Prison
From washingtonpost.com: After more than four months in an Iranian prison, California businessman Ali Shakeri arrived home in the United States late Tuesday. He is the fourth American Iranian to be freed from jail in recent weeks, and the third allowed to leave Iran.
In an interview, Shakeri said his passport was returned Sunday and he immediately left Iran after posting a bond. But he said he still expects to have to go back to Iran to face charges.
"They released me on bond to come to the U.S., and by court order, when they want me, I'll be there," he said in an interview. "This is not something which I will disobey. I gave up the property deed of my brother's place, which is worth about $110,000."
Shakeri was picked up March 8 at Tehran's international airport as he was about to fly out after visiting his ill mother. She died while he was in Tehran, and he stayed for the funeral and to settle family business.
Shakeri said he was not ill treated during his long ordeal in Evin Prison, where he was held in solitary confinement in the section for political prisoners. "I was not treated bad in Ward 209, and I appreciate the discipline in prison," he said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 08, 2007
CrimProf Tom Coetzee Says Trial of Jacob Zuma is Inevitable
From legalbrief.com: The corruption trial of Jacob Zuma in South Africa became inevitable with the unanimous decision yesterday of 11 Constitutional Court judges to dismiss Schabir Shaik’s application to appeal against his conviction on charges of corruption and fraud and his 15-year jail sentence, says University of North West CrimProf Tom Coetzee.
According to a Beeld report, the judges ruled that Shaik’s application to appeal did not have a reasonable chance of succeeding, and that it would therefore not be in the interests of justice to hear it. It notes the judges referred in particular to Schaik’s corrupt relationship with Zuma and said it centered on the High Court’s finding that Shaik and his companies had from October 1995 to September 2002 ‘made certain payments in a corrupt way to Zuma, with the intention of influencing him to use his name and political influence to benefit Shaik and his undertakings’.
Coetzee said the decision means that from a legal point of view a prima facie case against Zuma ‘clearly exists’ and that it is a matter that Zuma ought to respond to in court, ‘regardless of the massive political impact’ that this would have. ‘Remember that the finding that Shaik paid money in a corrupt way to Zuma is now the finding of three courts: the High Court, Appeal Court and Constitutional Court. I’m not saying that Zuma is guilty. What I am saying is that it’s inevitable that he’ll now have to be charged to put his side of the case.’
However, Business Day quotes prosecutor Billy Downer as saying the outcome of other cases was being awaited before a final decision was made about Zuma. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 06, 2007
Attorney Monica Feria Wins Justice Prize for Work to Stop Peruvian Injustice
From NPR.com: Monica Feria will receive the Gruber Justice Prize next week for her work as an attorney on behalf of hundreds of Peruvians who were killed and held illegally by their government. She was among them. Feria talks with Scott Simon. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 04, 2007
Colombia Has a New Anti-Drug Strategy
From latimes.com: From his dugout canoe in the Napipi River, Jefferson Rojas spotted what he was after: a 40-foot-high jagua tree, its canopy dotted with dozens of thick-skinned fruits the size of tennis balls.
Rojas pulled his boat to shore, macheted his way through thick foliage and with his telephone lineman gear quickly scaled the tree. He lopped off the fruits, which fell with thuds to the floor of the jungle.
Why did Rojas go to such lengths for a fruit that isn't even ripe? Because the body-marking market has caught on to what indigenous tribes here in Choco state have known for centuries: Jagua is an excellent source of nonpermanent tattoo ink.
Ink that eventually makes its way to the biceps or backsides of trendy teenagers thousands of miles away might appear to have a tenuous connection to Plan Colombia, the seven-year program that has funneled $5.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer money into fighting drug traffickers and guerrillas. But with the current fiscal year, which began Monday, more of those funds are to go to economic projects such as Rojas' tattoo ink venture and fewer to finance the Colombian military and anti-coca spraying than in past years.
The initiative will soon take on a "softer" profile, at the insistence of the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress. It is expected to contain more money to fund "alternative development" programs to encourage farmers to grow legal crops and steer clear of joining armed groups. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 03, 2007
ANC President Jacob Zuma to face Corruption Charges
From news24.com: A trial on charges of corruption has become inevitable for Jacob Zuma, the deputy president of the African National Conference and possible candidate for its leadership and the presidency of South Africa.
That's according to University of North West CrimProf Tom Coetzee, following the unanimous decision on Tuesday of 11 Constitutional Court judges to dismiss Schabir Shaik's application to appeal against his conviction on charges of corruption and fraud and his 15-year jail sentence.
Rest of Article. . .[Mark Godsey]
September 26, 2007
CrimProf Don Stuart Discusses Broken Agreement Between the Crown and Defendants
A decision by the federal Crown to terminate a written agreement with defendants in the Toronto-area alleged terror-plot trial will almost certainly trigger an abuse-of-process motion arguing that charges should be dismissed against some of the accused or that there be an order for the preliminary hearing to resume.
The deputy Attorney-General of Canada issued a direct indictment on Monday against the 14 terrorism suspects, which brought an end to a preliminary hearing that began in June.
A direct indictment is a broad power in the Criminal Code that permits a federal or provincial Attorney-General or deputy Attorney-General to order defendants directly to trial. The direct indictment was issued despite a written agreement negotiated this spring between the Crown and the defence, which was filed in court.
The National Post has obtained a copy of the agreement, which contains concessions by defence lawyers so that the Crown would call certain witnesses at the preliminary hearing. "The taking of evidence will commence on May 28, 2007, and continue until the preliminary hearing is completed," the document states.
While the agreement is not an enforceable contract, the actions of the Crown may bolster the defence in an abuse-of-process motion, said Don Stuart, a criminal law professor at Queen's University in Kingston. "We have a tradition in the criminal justice system that the lawyers get along and trust each other," he explained. He stressed that it is very rare for a court to find the Crown has engaged in an abuse of process and while it is unlikely a judge will dismiss charges against any defendants, a "creative remedy" would be to order the preliminary hearing to resume. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 12, 2007
Guantanamo Prisoners on Hunger Strike and Being Force Fed
From observer.com: New details have emerged of how the growing number of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay are being tied down and force-fed through tubes pushed down their nasal passages into their stomachs to keep them alive.
They routinely experience bleeding and nausea, according to a sworn statement by the camp's chief doctor, seen by The Observer.
'Experience teaches us' that such symptoms must be expected 'whenever nasogastric tubes are used,' says the affidavit of Captain John S Edmondson, commander of Guantánamo's hospital. The procedure - now standard practice at Guantánamo - 'requires that a foreign body be inserted into the body and, ideally, remain in it.' But staff always use a lubricant, and 'a nasogastric tube is never inserted and moved up and down. It is inserted down into the stomach slowly and directly, and it would be impossible to insert the wrong end of the tube.' Medical personnel do not insert nasogastric tubes in a manner 'intentionally designed to inflict pain.' Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 06, 2007
Soldier Convicted of Raping and Killing 14 Year Old Iraqi Girl Sentenced to 110 Years
From washingtonpost.com: A soldier convicted of rape and murder in an attack on a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and her family was sentenced Saturday to 110 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after 10 years.
The sentence was part of a plea agreement that attorneys for Pfc. Jesse Spielman had made with prosecutors, which set the number of years he could serve in prison, regardless of the jury's recommendation.
The jury had recommended life with parole, a sentence under which he would have had to wait longer for the possibility of freedom.
Spielman was convicted Friday of rape, conspiracy to commit rape, housebreaking with intent to rape and four counts of felony murder.
Military prosecutors did not say Spielman took part in the rape or murders but alleged that he went to the house knowing what the others intended to do and served as a lookout.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 01, 2007
Cambodian Tribunal Charges Khmer Rouge Torture House Commandant
From NYTimes.com: A tribunal in Cambodia charged the commandant of the main Khmer Rouge torture house with crimes against humanity on Tuesday, bringing the first charge in a long-delayed trial in the deaths of 1.7 million people in the late 1970s.
The commandant, Kaing Guek Eav, 64, known as Duch, was the leader of the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh where at least 14,000 men, women and children were tortured and sent to killing fields. Only a handful survived.
Two weeks ago, prosecutors announced that they had submitted to the tribunal a list of five potential defendants for consideration by co-investigating judges, who are authorized to decide on filing formal charges.
The other four names have not been disclosed. In the charges on Tuesday, the judges said Duch had been placed in “provisional detention,” but did not explain. A small holding center was recently built on the grounds of the tribunal in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.
Duch has been the only major Khmer Rouge figure in custody, in a military jail in Phnom Penh on separate charges, since 1999 when a British photographer discovered him in rural Cambodia. He was working for a government agency and had become a born-again Christian. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 25, 2007
CrimProf Ivana Bacik Attempts to Take Seat in Seanad
Ms Bacik, who was a prominent spokeswoman for the Alliance for a No Vote in the successful campaign to defeat the referendum on abortion in March 2002, seemed set to take the seat formerly held by Mary Henry, who is not standing in this election.
Family values campaigner Ronan Mullen is also in the running to take a seat in the Seanad at his first attempt.
As counting of about 36,000 ballots from National University of Ireland graduates began yesterday, early tallies showed that he had received 13.64pc of first preferences.
This put him just behind outgoing senator Joe O'Toole (15.3pc) but ahead of the other outgoing senators on the university panel, former supermarket owner Fergal Quinn (10.76pc) and Labour politician Brendan Ryan (9.67pc).
"I'm delighted with the first count tally and I'm grateful to the people who voted for me," he said. "It's a huge encouragement because it's my first time running since student politics 16 years ago."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 24, 2007
Medical Workers Freed in Libya
From NPR.com: Six foreign medical workers sentenced to death in Libya are free thanks to a deal with the European Union. The five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor flew out of Libya to Bulgaria aboard a French jetliner accompanied by the wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
The medical workers were convicted of intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV. They have maintained their innocence. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 19, 2007
British Arrest Man Plotting to Kill a Russian Exile
From NYTimes.com: The British police said on Wednesday that they had arrested a man last month on suspicion of plotting to kill the Russian exile Boris A. Berezovsky a prominent critic of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
A police official, who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity, said that the suspect was arrested in London on June 21 and handed over to the immigration service two days later, without being charged. The suspect, the official said, was a Russian who was then sent home. Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Berezovsky said that he had been compelled to leave Britain temporarily last month after the security services warned him that a Russian assassin had arrived and intended to kill him.
“A month ago, an officer from Scotland Yard said a person came with the task of killing me, and that I knew this person,” Mr. Berezovsky said in a telephone interview. “They said I should meet with nobody, and I should leave the country.”
Mr. Berezovsky described a plot — outlined further to him by Russian friends “who are connected to the special services” — that was said to involve a man who would lure him to a meeting and shoot him. Then the gunman would surrender to the British authorities, serve a long sentence in Britain and return to Russia to collect “a large reward and Hero of Russia medal,” Mr. Berezovsky said.
Mr. Berezovsky, who parlayed once close ties to the Kremlin into an industrial empire and vast wealth, fell out with Mr. Putin and sought refuge in Britain. He was granted political asylum in 2003 and is wanted in Russia on charges of fraud, embezzlement and fomenting a coup. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 17, 2007
Prosecutors Want Long Prison Terms for War Criminals
Frm NYTimes.com: Prosecutors in the war crimes court for Sierra Leone called Monday for long prison terms for three rebel leaders convicted of crimes against humanity during the country’s civil war.
“All three should be sentenced to extreme lengthy terms of imprisonment,” the deputy prosecutor, Christopher Staker, told the United Nations-backed court.
He asked for 60-year terms for Alex Tamba Brima, 35, and Brima Bazzy Kamara, 39, and a 50-year term for Santigie Borbor Kanu, 42.
In June, the court found all three guilty of 11 of the 14 charges against them, which included murder, rape and enlisting child soldiers. Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday.
The defense lawyer, Kojo Graham, urged the court to “consider the need for reconciliation as an important issue in relationship to sentencing.”
The three rebel commanders, who all pleaded not guilty, were believed to have had the support of Charles Taylor then the president of Liberia, in exchange for Sierra Leone diamonds. Mr. Taylor is on trial in The Hague on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection to the Sierra Leone civil war.
By the time the decade-long civil war ended in 2001, 120,000 people had died. Thousands of others had been mutilated, with their arms, legs, ears or noses chopped off. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Crimprof Don Stuart Comments on Recent Supreme Court of Canada Case
From lawtimesnews.com: Queen’s University CrimProf Don Stuart recently commented on the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v. Clayton. In overturning a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court suggested there needs to be deference to police when a handgun is recovered, despite allegations of Charter breaches.
The ruling also goes farther than the U.S. Supreme Court in granting the power to stop cars without “individualized suspicion” if there is a gun call.
CrimProf Stuart says he agrees with the Supreme Court’s conclusion that the search was justified in this case.
But he suggests the ruling does not provide sufficient guidance for other cases and the court should have adopted the test set out by Doherty. “What he did was come up with a nuanced roadblock power. I think it was good law,” says Stuart. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 16, 2007
Japan Prepares for Jury Trials
From NYTimes.com: Japan is preparing to adopt a jury-style system in its courts in 2009, the most significant change in its criminal justice system since the postwar American occupation. But for it to work, the Japanese must first overcome some deep-rooted cultural obstacles: a reluctance to express opinions in public, to argue with one another and to question authority.
To win over a skeptical public, Japan’s courts have held some 500 mock trials across the country, including six here in Nagano, the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Still, polls show that 80 percent are dreading the change and do not want to serve as jurors, a reluctance that was on display among the mock jurors here.
They preferred directing questions to the judges. They never engaged one another in discussion. Their opinions had to be extracted by the judges and were often hedged by the Japanese language’s rich ambiguity. When a silence stretched out and a judge prepared to call upon a juror, the room tensed up as if the jurors were students who had not done the reading.
“I think there is also the matter of how much he has repented,” one of the judges said. “Has he genuinely, deeply repented, or has the defendant repented in his own way? What’s the degree? I mean, some could even say that he hasn’t repented at all.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 15, 2007
Afghanistan President Pardons Suicide Bomber
From timesonline.com: An unprecedented move by President Karzai of Afghanistan to pardon a teenage Taleban suicide bomber – and pay him $2,000 to travel home to Pakistan – has drawn stinging criticism and warnings that it will encourage such attacks.
“It is a very silly idea to forgive such criminals. He was a volunteer,” Mullah Malang, an MP from Baghdis province, told The Times. “When he goes back to Pakistan he will tell all his friends that he deceived the Afghan Government. He is brainwashed, he will always be a Taleb.”
The extraordinary case involved Rafiqullah, 14, a would-be suicide bomber, who was captured in May by Afghan police in the province of Khost, which borders Pakistan. He was wearing a suicide vest and riding a motorbike. His target was Arsala Jamal, the governor of the province.
He had crossed the border from South Waziristan, a troubled tribal belt in Pakistan, where he lived and had been attending a religious school. “Today we are facing a hard fact, that is, a Muslim child was sent to madrassa [religious school] to learn Islamic subjects, but the enemies of Afghanistan misled him towards suicide and prepared him to die and kill,” Mr Karzai told reporters. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]