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Cambodia: Protest Supports Villagers Challenging Foreign Forest Concession

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(Sept 25, 2015) On September 22, 2015, a group of approximately 100 Cambodians from the Phnong ethnic group rallied to support five members of the group who were questioned in court and then released. The issues involved were claims of illegal logging and a land dispute in Kratie Province of eastern Cambodia. The provincial court had called the five individuals to answer questions about a dispute with a Vietnamese rubber company. (Chin Chetha & Men Sothy [in Khmer], Joshua Lipes [in English], Ethnic Villagers Protest Cambodian Court Questioning of Forest Activists, RADIO FREE ASIA (Sept. 22, 2015).)

The villagers argued that the company had destroyed forest areas that they had traditionally used. According to Set Seb, one of the protestors, since the Doty Saigon company began clearing the forest last year, her family can no longer harvest the fruits, vines, and resin on which they had relied from the forest. Those at the rally want their government to uphold their rights to the land; they traditionally used the forest sustainably, without cutting down trees. (Id.) The use of forest areas in Cambodia by foreign companies given concessions by the government has been controversial for several years. It was one of the issues motivating anti-government protestors in December 2013. (Thomas Fuller, Rally Draws a Diverse Group of Protesters in Cambodia, NEW YORK TIMES (Dec. 29, 2013).)

The area in question, 15,900 acres, had been granted as a concession to Doty Saigon by the Council of Ministers of Cambodia in March 2007. The area is adjacent to the 1,235 forest acres the Phnong claim. (Lipes, supra.)

Local rights group Adhoc provided legal defense to the five villagers; an official of the group, Suos Vannak, said there was no evidence to support claims that the villagers took part in illegal logging. Hum Ngor, one of the five questioned in court, asserted that the concession to the rubber company had negatively impacted his communities customs and culture and that the "the forest is our lives." (Id.)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: Foreign investments More on this topic
 Forests and timber More on this topic
 Judiciary More on this topic
 Minority rights More on this topic
 Natural resources More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Cambodia More about this jurisdiction

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European Union: Adoption of Decision to Relocate Asylum Seekers

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(Sept 25, 2015) On September 22, 2015, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council adopted a proposal, introduced by the European Commission on September 9, 2015, in response to the unprecedented influx of migrants who have sought refuge in the European Union during the last six months, in order to improve the situation of those EU Member States, such as Greece and Italy, that have been most affected. (Council of the European Union, Justice and Home Affairs Council, 22/09/2015: Main Results (Sept. 22, 2015).) The Commission's proposal to relocate 120,000 people had been strongly opposed by the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. Poland initially was against it, but finally endorsed the decision. In the initial proposal, the Commission had also included Hungary as a third country to benefit from the relocation proposal by relocating 54,000 people in need of international protection; however, Hungary refused to participate. (Hungary Rejects EU Offer to Take Up Refugees, EU OBSERVER (Oct. 10, 2015).)

The decision was initially adopted on September 17, 2015, by the European Parliament, with no amendments. (MEPS Give Go-Ahead to Relocate an Additional 120,000 Asylum Seekers in the EU, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT NEWS.)

The relocation plan is temporary and will apply to those who have already been in Italy and Greece during the previous six months and to those who arrive in the two months following the entry into force of the decision. The 120,000 persons who would be relocated are in addition to the 40,000 for whom relocation was already proposed in May, for a total number of 160,000. The decision provides that 66,000 persons will be relocated from Italy and Greece (15,600 from Italy and 50,400 from Greece). The remaining 54 000 persons will be relocated from Italy and Greece in the same proportion one year after the entry into force of the decision. (Justice and Home Affairs Council, 22/09/2015: Main Results, supra.)

The relocation would be carried out pursuant to a mandatory distribution scheme based on the following proportional criteria: 40% on the size of the jurisdiction's population, 40% on GDP, 10% on past acceptance of asylum applications, and 10% on unemployment rate. Two EU Members, Denmark and the United Kingdom, are not participating in this decision; Ireland has expressed its intention to participate. (Id.)

Author: Theresa Papademetriou More by this author
Topic: Asylum More on this topic
 Immigration More on this topic
 Refugees More on this topic
 Treaties and International Agreements/Refugees More on this topic
Jurisdiction: European Union More about this jurisdiction

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Brazil: End of Age Limit for Assisted Fertilization

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(Sept 24, 2015) On September 22, 2015, the Brazilian Federal Council of Medicine (Conselho Federal de Medicina, CFM), issued Resolution No. 2,121/2015 on, inter alia, eliminating the need by women over 50 years of age to obtain the consent of a medical association in order to use assisted reproduction techniques in order to become pregnant. (Mulheres com mais de 50 anos poderão utilizar técnicas de reprodução assistida desde que assumam riscos juntamente com o médico, CFM website (Sept. 22, 2015); Resolução CFM No. 2.121/2015, CREMERS [Conselho Regional de Medicina do Estado do Rio Grande do Sul] (July 16, 2015) [it will enter into force upon publication in Brazil's official gazette].) This Resolution allows such women to become pregnant by the use of artificial methods without asking in advance for the consent of a state Medicine Council, provided that the woman and her medical doctor take full responsibility for the risks involved in such a procedure. (Novas Regras Autorizam Inseminação Artificial em Mulheres com Mais de 50 Anos, VEJA (Sept. 22, 2015).)

The Resolution also regulates the donation of sperm, which can be done without restriction until the man planning to make the donation reaches the age of 50. In the case of female egg donors, the donation can be made when both the giver and the receiver have reproduction problems, and they are both undergoing reproductive health treatment. According to the CFM, the purpose of this measure is to put an end to egg-trading between women and reproduction clinics. (Id.)

In addition, the Resolution newly allows women who are in a homosexual relationship to have a shared pregnancy, in which one woman can transfer to the other the embryo generated from the fertilized egg of her partner. (Id.)

In the area of genetic diagnosis of embryos before implantation, the Resolution allows parents who have some genetic incompatibility to make a selection, either to prevent the birth of another child with serious health problems or to enable the treatment of a sick sibling using stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord of a newborn child. (Fertilização Assistida: Resolução CFM nº 2.121/2015 Estabelece Novas Normas, CREMERS (Sept. 22, 2015).)

Author: Eduardo Soares More by this author
Topic: Families More on this topic
 Health More on this topic
 Pregnancy More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Brazil More about this jurisdiction

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Sri Lanka: Update on War Crimes Investigation Proposal

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(Sept 24, 2015) On September 22, 2015, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of Sri Lanka, speaking to the legislature, rejected the recommendation from the United Nations that there be international involvement in the investigation into the war crimes that allegedly occurred during the country's civil war or that there be established any form of hybrid domestic and international court to try offenders. He stated, "[t]here is nothing to be got from abroad." (Sri Lanka Rejects International War Crimes Probe, CHANNEL NEWS ASIA (Sept. 22, 2015); Taylor Gillan, Sri Lanka PM Rejects UN Call for International War Crimes Investigation, PAPER CHASE (Sept. 22, 2015); No International Mechanism to Investigate Alleged War Crimes, Sri Lankan PM Reiterates, LANKA PAGE (Sept. 23, 2015).)

The U. N. Human Rights Council had called for a hybrid special court that would try perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka from both sides of the civil conflict. (Constance Johnson, Sri Lanka: Proposal to Establish Truth and Reconciliation Commission, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Sept. 16, 2015).) Although in contrast to previous administrations, Sri Lanka's current government has said it will prosecute war criminals, members of the minority Tamil community reportedly do not trust a purely domestic forum to follow through effectively. (Sri Lanka Rejects International War Crimes Probe, supra.) In place of an international court, Sri Lanka plans to establish an internal mechanism modeled on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. (Johnson, supra.)

The President of the Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, came into office with strong support from the Tamil community; he promised then to restore human rights and the rule of law. (Sri Lanka Rejects International War Crimes Probe, supra.) Wickremesinghe did stress that the government will work to both maintain peace and to serve all of the communities of the country equally, ending racism and religious discrimination. The Prime Minister also said that in addition to investigating crimes from the civil war era, the government will probe cases of corruption and misuse of public resources. (No International Mechanism to Investigate Alleged War Crimes, Sri Lankan PM Reiterates, supra.)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: Crimes against humanity More on this topic
 International organizations More on this topic
 Judiciary More on this topic
 War crimes More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Sri Lanka More about this jurisdiction

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Israel: Court Rejects Claim of Distinction Between "Civil" and "Military" Activities of Hamas

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(Sept 22, 2015) On September 3, 2015, Israel's Supreme Court rejected an appeal against the conviction of four individuals by the Jerusalem District Court on charges of financing and managing Hamas' "civilian" activities in East Jerusalem. (CrimA 1784/14 Ashraf Asoor v. State of Israel (Sept. 3, 2015), THE JUDICIAL AUTHORITY (in Hebrew).)

Hamas was designated a terrorist organization in a declaration issued by the Israeli government on December 25, 1996, in accordance with the government authority under the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, 5708-1948 [PTO] (ITON RISHMI [official gazette] No. 24 of 5708 (Sept. 29, 1948). (See also Declarations of Terrorist Organizations, Unauthorized Associations and Confiscation Orders, Ministry of Defense website (last visited Sep. 22, 2015) (in Hebrew); Hamas is listed as number 29 on a linked list of designated terrorist organizations.)

Three of the four appellants were members of the Managing Committee of Hamas in East Jerusalem. They were convicted of engaging in and organizing Hamas activities, an offense under section 2 of the PTO, for providing support for local educational and cultural activities and for arranging visits to families of Shahid (martyrs), and prisoners being held for security reasons. According to Justice Dafna Barak-Erez, the appellants' actions were designed "to strengthen Hamas' grip over Muslims residing in the Jerusalem area." (CrimA 1784/14, ¶¶ 4-5.)

Unlike members of the Managing Committee, the fourth appellant was convicted of lesser offenses under section 8(a) of the Prevention of Terrorism Financing Law, 5765-2005 (SEFER HA-HUKIM [BOOK OF LAW (official gazette), SH)] 5765 No. 1973 (2005) p. 76), and under section 3 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Law, 5760-2000, SH 5760 No. 1753 p. 293).

The appellants contested the admissibility of the evidence used against them as a basis for conviction. One appellant argued that his confessions should be excluded because they were allegedly made while he was deprived of sleep and without legal representation. (CrimA 1784/14, ¶ 10.) All the appellants appealed against their sentences, which, they alleged, did not reflect the fact that they were not charged with offenses that directly relate to military or security activities. (Id. ¶ 19.)

Non-Distinction Between Hamas' "Civil" and "Military" Activities

Rejecting the alleged distinction between "civilian" and "military" activities of terrorist organizations, Barak-Erez held that terrorist organizations, including Hamas,

… need significant budgets and a social support basis for their ongoing activity. Therefore, they need to rely, on the one hand, on a "military" wing whose role is to carry out terrorism actions and, on the other hand, on a "civil" wing whose role is to provide the organization the fuel for its military activity– money and activists.

As a matter of fact, these things are more complicated. Part of the "civil" activity is designed to collect money and resources that are designed to be directly translated into military type activity. Nonetheless, often the "civil" activity of terrorist organizations is designed to win hearts, that is, [to promote] education and welfare activities in order to secure support for the terrorist organizations and to [portray] its activists as good and as doing good, [with the goal of] building an infrastructure for the future activities of the organization. Because of this link between these [activities and objectives] a "civil" activity cannot be evaluated only with regard to the actions it includes, which could in fact, if standing alone, be desired or positive. (Id. ¶¶ 37-38.)

Application to the Current Case

Determining that the Hamas-declared distinction between "civilian" and "military" operations was designed to facilitate Hamas' "laundering" of funding and recruitment activists, Barak- Erez rejected the alleged distinction as a defense. (Id. ¶ 47.) She further rejected the claim that confessions made by one of the appellants should be invalidated as they were not made under his free will. Barak-Erez determined that although the interrogation involved deprivation of sleep, "the way in which his confessions developed, just as his explanation for having given the confessions when he started retracting them, [both] indicate that his choice was free to admit to what was [presented to him as his] alleged actions." As such, the appellant's confession did not amount to "real harm to the defendant's willful autonomy in giving his confession" in a way that would require voidance of the admission under the Evidence Ordinance (New Version) 5731-1971 (1 LAWS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL (New Version) 198, § 12). (CrimA 1784/14, ¶¶ 60-61.)

While rejecting the appeal of the three senior Hamas Managing Committee members, Barak-Erez noted that, unlike those who head Hamas activities,
it is not that clear that 'low ranking' activists, who were recruited for concrete objectives – that are not military – out of a simple wish to earn money from their activity, actually understand the logic behind the activity for which they have been recruited. Needless to say, in principle, transfer of money to a terrorist organization is serious. At the same time, the actions [carried out] by lower ranking activists are less grave. (Id. ¶ 93.)

Considering the status and the method of recruitment of the fourth appellant, the fact that this was a one-time act with the limited objective of merely making a profit, his economic difficulties, and the expression of regret on his part, Barak-Erez decided to reduce his sentence to three months instead of the 42 months previously imposed. (Id. ¶ 93.)

Author: Ruth Levush More by this author
Topic: National security More on this topic
 Sentencing More on this topic
 Terrorism More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Israel More about this jurisdiction

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