Jurist

UN report on climate change calls for urgent action

A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Aug. 8, focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the "rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil," risks "jeopardizing food security for the planet." According to the report, about a quarter of the Earth's ice-free land area is subject to human-induced degradation, such as soil erosion and desertification. The effects of global warming have led to "shifts of climate zones in many world regions," further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: "The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases."

Judge rules Trump asylum ban illegal

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Aug. 2 against the Trump administration's ban on asylum requests for people who illegally cross the border. The Trump administration issued the rule in late 2018, prohibiting migrants from applying for asylum except at legal US ports of entry. The rule was created in response to a presidential proclamation issued last November. The plaintiffs sought summary judgment to have this rule declared illegal under the Immigration & Nationality Act. They also argued the rule was improperly imposed under terms of the Administrative Procedures Act. They additionally asked for a class of asylum-seekers to be certified in the case. The government challenged each of these, arguing that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue, fail on the merits, and that the court should not certify a class. The judge held that the rule is illegal under the Immigration & Nationality Act and certified a class for the plaintiffs.

US allies maintain lead over Taliban in civilian deaths

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a midyear report July 30 detailing the 3,812 civilian casualties in Afghanistan since Jan. 1, 2019. According to this report, Afghan government forces and their allies killed 717 civilians, while the Taliban and other militant groups have killed 531 civilians. Nonetheless, there was an overall 27% decrease in civilian casualties from the same period of 2018, with the decrease being attributed to a shift away from ground engagements and suicide bombers. Aerial operations continue to be a rising cause of civilian casualties. The report also states that women are disproportionately affected by the ongoing attacks, not only due to loss of life or serious injury, but also secondary effects such as economic insecurity and displacement. In addition, women are at a higher risk of sexual violence and gender-based violence.

Hong Kong protesters charged with rioting

A Hong Kong court on July 31 charged 44 protesters with rioting over their involvement in street protests over the weekend. The peaceful sit-in at a park outside Beijing's Liaison Office July 28 turned into running battles between black-clad demonstrators and police, with security forces using tear-gas and rubber bullets. The 44 are the first demonstrators to be charged since protests over the extradition bill began in June. The defendants were released on bail. Most were ordered to remain in Hong Kong, except a pilot who is able to leave when working; and had a midnight to 6 AM curfew imposed on them, except for a children's home worker. Hong Kong's anti-riot law defines rioting as an unlawful assembly of three or more people where any person commits a breach of the peace. If convicted under this law, the sentence can be up to 10 years in prison. This heavy sentence has sparked outrage, and protesters demonstrated at the courthouse where the 44 defendants were charged. While the protests initially began in June to demonstrate against the extradition bill, they have since developed into a call for wider democratic reform.

China: dissident journalist Huang Qi gets 12 years

Huang Qi, a Chinese journalist and "cyber-dissident," was sentenced July 29 to 12 years in prison for illegally disclosing state secrets abroad. Huang Qi is founder of 64 Tianwang, a Chinese news site that has reported frequently on protests and human rights abuses in the People's Republic. His site has run articles on the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. He supported families in Sichuan in their case against the government for children who died in schoolhouses during the 2008 earthquake there. He reported on Tiananmen Square again in 2013 when a rare demonstration was held there, and in 2014 when a woman tried to self-immolate there to protest the opening of the National People’s Congress. Each of these reports led to prison time for Huang Qi.

Kosovo PM resigns to face war crimes court

The prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned on July 19 after being called in for questioning by a war crimes court in The Hauge. The court is investigating ex-members of the Kosovo Liberation Army for their actions during the war from 1998-9 that led to Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Haradinaj was a guerrilla commander in that war. Haradinaj stated, "The honor of the Prime Minister and the State must be preserved, and I will never stain it. In the Hague I will go as Ramush Haradinaj and will face the defamation, as required by the honor of the Albanian fighter."

Federal judge allows travel ban lawsuit to proceed

Judge Victoria Roberts of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled July 9 that a lawsuit by the Arab American Civil Rights League against the Trump administration's Proclamation No. 9645, the third iteration of his "travel ban," which restricts travel from seven countries, can move forward. The Proclamation states that, after consultation with the Director of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, and based on their assessment of threats against the United States from nationals traveling from the seven enumerated countries, "entry should be subject to certain restrictions, limitations, and exceptions." The administration sought to have the lawsuit dismissed based on the Supreme Court's ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, in which the court held that under §1182(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the president is granted broad discretion to lawfully decide "whether and when to suspend entry, whose entry to suspend, for how long, and on what conditions." Roberts held in the present case that, "although the Proclamation is facially neutral, its impact falls predominantly on Muslims." 

Italy hands down sentences in 'Operation Condor'

An appeals court in Rome sentenced 24 to life in prison on July 8, including former senior officials of the military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. The officials were found to have been involved in Operation Condor, under which opponents of military rule were tracked down and eliminated across South America's borders in the 1970s and early '80s. The exact number of people who were killed through this operation is not known. The case before the court focused on the disappearance of 43 people, 23 of whom were Italian citizens. The prosecutors applied the universal jurisdiction precedent from the 1998 arrest in London of Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. They also referenced the 2016 conviction of leaders of Argentina's military dictatorship, which confirmed the existence of Operation Condor for the first time.

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