The Week's News

Human Rights Conditions

*       President Bachelet declares state of catastrophe following powerful earthquake in Chile. [Washington Post]

*       Interim government organized following Niger coup. [BBC]

*       Ceasefire signed in Sudan. [Guardian]

*       Waterboarding defended by former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. [New York Times]

*       Russia pushed for details on investigation of Chechen human rights defender’s murder in July 2009. [Washington Post]

*       The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its concern over the death of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata and the murders of four Guatemalan human rights defenders.

Domestic Courts and Legislatures

*       The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, a case challenging the constitutionality of “material support” prosecutions under the Patriot Act. [Center for Constitutional Rights]  See the webcast of Georgetown Law’s panel discussion of the case, following oral arguments, here.

*      The Colombian Constitutional Court ruled out third four-year term for President Uribe, rejecting national law that would have allowed a referendum on constitutional reform. [Washington Post]  Read the Court’s press release (in Spanish).

*       Federal legislators and NGOs seek inquiry into missing email communications related to 2002 torture memos, following Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility’s release of report on torture memos. [Washington Post, New York Times, Human Rights First]

*       On Wednesday, D.C. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy ordered the release of a Yemeni prisoner from Guantanamo. [McClatchy] The same day, Judge Gladys Kessler denied the habeas petitions (here and here) presented by two other Yemeni Guantanamo detainees who had been cleared for released two years ago. [NewsObserver]  These decisions come one week after a different D.C. District Court judge held that wrongful death claims by Guantanamo detainees’ families are barred by the Military Commission’s Act and immunity enjoyed by government agents for activities falling within the “scope of employment”. [Center for Constitutional Rights] See Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle’s opinion in Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld here.

*       The U.S. House of Representatives passed a one-year extension of three Patriot Act provisions. [ACLU]

*       The Rwandan ambassador to Canada during Rwandan genocide was denied opportunity to rebut presumption of complicity in human rights violations in deportation proceedings. [Montreal Gazette]

*       U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky introduced legislation aimed at prohibiting the practice of using private security contractors. [Center for Constitutional Rights]

International Bodies

*       Discussion continues of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ report on human rights conditions in Venezuela, Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela, with President Hugo Chávez criticizing its content. [El Universal, Washington Post, New York Times]

*       American international criminal lawyer, Brenda Hollis, was named Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone [press release].

*       The ICC will pursue its investigation of September 2009 massacres in Guinea as possible crimes against humanity; examination of the situation was opened last October. [Washington Post, ICC]

*       NGOs presented a third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in Jones v. UK and Mitchell and Others v. UK, questioning a UK court’s holding that Saudi officials enjoyed immunity against civil suit for torture suffered by British citizens detained in Saudi Arabia. [INTERIGHTS]

*       At the ICTY, the trial against former army intelligence officer Zdravko Tolimir began on Friday, on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in relation to the killing and expulsion of members of the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica and other communities. [JURIST, ICTY]

*       The European Court of Human Rights issued several notable judgments this week, including decisions that Turkey’s criminal conviction of members of a religious group for their manner of dress (Arslan and Others v. Turkey) and Croatian authorities’ search of detained defendants’ vehicle without their knowledge or attorney’s presence (Lisica v. Croatia) constituted violations of the European Convention, while Serbia could not be held responsible for an inmate’s poor health when the inmate had refused treatment (Dermanovic v. Serbia).  The Court also held a hearing on the admissibility and merits of a same-sex couple’s complaint against Austria for refusing to allow them to enter into a marriage contract (Schalk and Kopf v. Austria).

*       The Inter-American Court of Human Rights released its new Rules on the Functioning of the Victims’ Legal Assistance Fund for cases before it.

*       The U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism will present his latest report to the Human Rights Council during its March session.

*       The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considered the State reports of Iceland, Japan and the Netherlands.

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