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Central America; Mexico; United States: Agreements on Goals of Common Plan to Prosecute Human Traffickers

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(Oct 24, 2014) On September 25, 2014, high ranking government officials from the Justice Departments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States met in Mexico City in order to create a proposal for the Attorneys General of those countries, concerning a common plan aimed at combating the trafficking of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America who have been arriving at the United States southwest border. (Press Release 171/14, Procuraduria General de la República, Reunión de Subprocuradores y Vicefiscales sobre el tema de tráfico de menores migrantes no acompañados, (Sept. 25, 2014).)

The initiative to create a common strategy pursued by these countries to address this issue was agreed to on September 9, 2014, in Mexico City, during a meeting of attorneys general from the five countries. They decided to form a high-level working group with members of their respective offices tasked with designing a proposal for the common plan, which will be introduced at a subsequent gathering of the attorneys general. (Gustavo Guerra, Central America; Mexico; United States: Agreement to Collaborate on Human Trafficking, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Sept. 30, 2014).)
The high ranking officials from the Justice Departments of the countries agreed on the main objectives and strategies of the proposal for the common plan. These agreements are intended to serve as guidelines for coordinated operations of working groups formed by staff with expertise in the trafficking of children from the Departments of Justice of the countries, in order to improve prosecutions of criminal organizations that are dedicated to this illicit activity and other crimes against migrants, such as kidnappings. (Press Release, supra.)

Specifically, agreements reached during the Justice Department officials' meeting include the creation of working groups dedicated to international legal assistance, legal harmonization, and investigation of human trafficking. (Id.) A guiding principle of the common plan will be to protect the integrity, safety, and human rights of the migrant children by investigating and prosecuting the crimes committed against them. (Id.)

Author: Gustavo Guerra More by this author
Topic: Human trafficking More on this topic
 Immigration More on this topic
 International affairs More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Central America More about this jurisdiction
 Mexico More about this jurisdiction
 United States More about this jurisdiction

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European Court of Human Rights; France: Prohibition of Unionization of Military Personnel Condemned

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(Oct 24, 2014) In two related decisions, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found that France's prohibition on military unionization violates the European Convention of Human Rights. (Matelly v. France, Eur. Ct. H.R. (Oct. 2, 2014), Application No. 10609/10, HUDOC; Adefdromil v. France, Eur. Ct. H.R. (Oct. 2, 2014), Application No. 32191/09, HUDOC.)

French law explicitly prohibits members of the military from forming or joining professional groups that have the characteristics of a union. (Code de la Defense [Defense Code], art. L4121-4, LEGIFRANCE.)

The Matelly case involved an officer of the French Gendarmerie (which is a branch of the French military) who created an organization to, among other things, "conduct and publish any useful studies, analysis and thoughts about (…) the protection of the gendarmes' material and moral situation." (Translated by the author, NB.) (Matelly v. France, supra.) This officer, and other military officers who had joined his organization, were ordered by the authorities to cancel their membership. (Id.)

The Adefdromil case was about an organization called the Association de Défense des Droits des Militaires (Association for the Protection of the Rights of Military Personnel, abbreviated to Adefdromil) which was founded by two military officers for the "study and protection of the material, professional, and moral interests, whether individual or collective, of military personnel." (Adefdromil v. France, supra.) Among other activities, this organization gave advice to military personnel regarding disputes within the hierarchy over advancement, sanctions, and other professional issues. (Id.) It also published an article in Le Point, a national weekly newspaper, in defense of a non-commissioned officer who had been the victim of harassment. (Id.) As in the Matelly case, members of the Adefdromil were ordered to resign from the organization or face disciplinary action for violating article L4121-4 of the Defense Code. (Id.)

In both cases, the ECHR found that France had violated article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that "everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests." (European Convention on Human Rights (Nov. 4, 1950, as amended up to June 1, 2010), art. 11, Council of Europe website.) The ECHR also highlighted the fact that the second clause of article 11 specifically permits "legitimate restrictions" on the freedom of association of members of the police and armed forces. (Matelly, supra; Adefdromil, supra.) By completely prohibiting military trade unions, however, French legislation went beyond such legitimate restrictions and violated article 11. (Id.)

On October 5, 2014, three days after the ECHR issued its two decisions, the French Minister of Defense stated that "trade unions in the army are not on the agenda." (Translated by NB). (Le Drian: les syndicats dans l'armée ne sont "pas à l'ordre du jour" [Le Drian: Trade Unions in the Army Are "Not on the Agenda"], LE POINT (Oct. 5, 2014).) However, the Minister also indicated that the government was willing to make some changes to French law, so that it could be made to comply with article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. (Id.)

Author: Nicolas Boring More by this author
Topic: Human rights More on this topic
 International organizations More on this topic
 Labor-management relations More on this topic
 Military service More on this topic
Jurisdiction: European Court of Human Rights More about this jurisdiction
 France More about this jurisdiction

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European Union; Sri Lanka: Plan to Contest Decision to End Ban on Tamil Tigers

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(Oct 23, 2014) On October 16, 2014, the European Court of Justice annulled the European Council's 2006 listing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers) as a terrorist organization. The step was taken on procedural grounds and left intact the freeze on LTTE assets. According to the Court, the original decision to list the group relied on "factual imputations derived from the press and the internet" rather than on examination of the actual actions of the LTTE. (European Court Annuls Sanctions on LTTE on Technical Grounds but Maintains Asset Freeze, COLOMBO PAGE (Oct. 16, 2014); European Court of Justice, Judgment ECLI:EU:T:2014:885, INFOCURIA (last visited Oct. 20, 2014).)

Sri Lanka's EU Ambassador Rodney Perera travelled to Strasbourg on October 21 to attend the EU parliament session; he also planned to contact two committees, foreign affairs and security and defense, and to lobby the European Commission, to contest the decision and maintain the listing. (Sri Lanka to Contest the European Court Decision Lifting Sanctions of LTTE, COLOMBO PAGE (Oct. 19, 2014).)

Political parties sympathetic to the LTTE in Tamil Nadu, India have welcomed the Court's judgment and have demanded that the Indian government's ban on the LTTE be lifted. India has said, however, that the European Court's decision will not change its stance, and the Indian ban will remain in place. In addition to Sri Lanka, India, and the EU, bans of the LTTE have been declared by Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (Id.)

Not all Tamil leaders are pleased with the decision. V. Anandasanaree, the president of the Tamil United Liberation Front, has argued that the judgment will help the separatist Tamil Tigers revive in Sri Lanka. He noted, "[p]ro-LTTE groups both within the island and overseas have received a shot in the arm, and will now openly propagate the LTTE's cause of separatism and terrorism." (Camelia Nathaniel, TULF Warns EU Court Ruling Will Help LTTE, THE SUNDAY LEADER (Oct. 20, 2014).)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: International organizations More on this topic
 Judiciary More on this topic
 Terrorism More on this topic
Jurisdiction: European Union More about this jurisdiction
 Sri Lanka More about this jurisdiction

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Sweden: Enforcement Authority to Collect Bitcoins

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(Oct 23, 2014) On October 6, 2014, the Swedish Enforcement Authority staff announced, to Swedish media outlets, that it will start to investigate and seize Bitcoin holdings when collecting funds from indebted individuals. (Kronofogden ska leta Bitcoins hos skuldsatta [Swedish Enforcement Authority to Look for Bitcoins from Indebted Individuals], SVERIGES RADIO (Oct. 6, 2014).)

The Swedish Enforcement Authority is a government agency that enforces judgments for both private and public claims. (Information About the Activities of the Swedish Enforcement Authority, Kronofogden [Swedish Enforcement Agency] website at 3 (last visited Oct. 23, 2014).)

In its Omvärldsanalys (World Analysis) report from May of this year, the Authority acknowledged that the effects of individuals' increased use of Bitcoin on the agency was not yet known. (Omvärldsanalys – April 2014 [World Analysis – April 2014], Kronofogden [Swedish Enforcement Agency] website at 26.)

Now Johannes Paulsson, a developer at the Swedish Enforcement Authority, has stated that the authority will actively look for Bitcoins when seeking assets in its debt collection efforts. (Kronofogden jagar bitcoins [Swedish Enforcement Authority Hunts for Bitcoins], DAGENS INDUSTRI (Oct. 6, 2014).)

The evaluation process and practical implications of this step are so far unknown. No seizure of Bitcoins has yet taken place, although the agency acknowledges that there have probably been cases of persons facing asset forfeiture having possession of Bitcoins that were overlooked in the collection process. (SVERIGES RADIO, supra.)

Prepared by Elin Hofverberg, Foreign Law Research Consultant, under the supervision of Luis Acosta, Acting Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II.

Author: Luis Acosta More by this author
Topic: Currency More on this topic
 Finance and financial sector More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Sweden More about this jurisdiction

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Mexico: Chamber of Deputies Legislates to Regulate Political Asylum

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(Oct 23, 2014) The Mexican Chamber of Deputies has passed legal reforms to regulate the country's handling of political asylum. The draft legislation, which was approved with 362 votes in favor, none against, and one abstention, changes the name of the Law on Refugees and Complementary Protection to the Law on Refugees, Complementary Protection, and Political Asylum. (Diputados de México Aprueban Reformas para Regular el Asilo Político, EL MUNDO (Sept. 25, 2014); Ley sobre Refugiados y Protección Complementaria, DIARIO OFICIAL DE LA FEDERACION (DOF) (Jan. 27, 2011). The new legislation has not yet been promulgated.)

The draft legislation reforms and adds to provisions that regulate the institution of political asylum, and also amends a provision in Mexico's Immigration Law regarding political asylum. (Diputados de México Aprueban Reformas para Regular el Asilo Político, supra; Ley de Migración, DOF (May 25, 2011).)

According to a Chamber of Deputies statement, the draft legislation is intended to "fill existing gaps in the secondary legislation on matters of political asylum." The statement explains that political asylum is the protection that the Mexican government grants to a foreigner who is persecuted due to offenses of a political character or due to ordinary offenses that are connected to political causes and whose life, liberty, or security is at risk. (Diputados de México Aprueban Reformas para Regular el Asilo Político, supra.)

The draft legislation states that the Secretariat of Foreign Relations will send notice of its decisions on political asylum applications to the Secretariat of Interior, and the latter will issue migratory documents in accordance with the provisions of the Immigration Law. (Id.)

The draft further provides that two Secretariats will jointly promote and coordinate public actions, strategies, and protection-oriented programs and assistance for refugees. (Victor Chávez, Diputados Aprueban Reformas para Tramitar el Asilo Político, EL FINANCIERO (Sept. 25, 2014).)

The revised statute will have a seventh title entitled "Political Asylum," with six chapters covering general principles governing asylum and the procedures for granting political asylum, for withdrawal and renunciation of political asylum, and for permitting stay in the country with political asylum and the care offered by institutions. (Id.)

The original draft legislation was sent by the Executive Branch to the Senate in October 2012. The draft legislation will be sent to the Executive for promulgation. (Id.)

Author: Norma Gutierrez More by this author
Topic: Asylum More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Mexico More about this jurisdiction

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