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International Criminal Court to probe abuses in Venezuela
Court Watch | 2021/11/09 05:46
The International Criminal Court is opening a formal investigation into allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings committed by Venezuelan security forces under President Nicolás Maduro’s rule, the first time a country in Latin America is facing scrutiny for possible crimes against humanity from the court.

The opening of the probe was announced Wednesday by ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan at the end of a three-day trip to Caracas.

Standing alongside Maduro, Khan said he was aware of the political “fault lines” and “geopolitical divisions” that exist in Venezuela. But he said his job was to uphold the principles of legality and the rule of law, not settle scores.

“I ask everybody now, as we move forward to this new stage, to give my office the space to do its work,” he said. “I will take a dim view of any efforts to politicize the independent work of my office.”

While Khan didn’t outline the scope of the ICC’s investigation, it follows a lengthy preliminary probe started in February 2018 — later backed by Canada and five Latin American governments opposed to Maduro — that focused on allegations of excessive force, arbitrary detention and torture by security forces during a crackdown on antigovernment protests in 2017.

Human rights groups and the U.S.-backed opposition immediately celebrated the decision. Since its creation two decades ago, the ICC has mostly focused on atrocities committed in Africa.

“This is a turning point,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch. “Not only does it provide hope to the many victims of Maduro’s government but it also is a reality check that Maduro himself could be held accountable for crimes committed by his security forces and others with total impunity in the name of the Bolivarian revolution.”

It could be years before any criminal charges are presented as part of the ICC’s investigation.

Maduro said he disagreed with Khan’s criteria in choosing to open the probe. But he expressed optimism that a three-page “letter of understanding” he signed with the prosecutor that would allow Venezuelan authorities to carry out their own proceedings in search of justice, something allowed under the Rome statute that created the ICC.


Palestinians reject offer to delay their Jerusalem eviction
Legal Network | 2021/11/05 05:02
Palestinian families on Tuesday rejected an offer that would have delayed their eviction by Jewish settlers in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood, where protests and clashes helped ignite the 11-day Gaza war in May.

The four families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near the Old City said their decision springs from “our belief in the justice of our cause and our right to our homes and our homeland.” They said that rather than submit to an “unjust agreement” they would rely on the “Palestinian street” to raise international awareness of their plight.

The proposal floated by Israel’s Supreme Court last month would have made them “protected tenants,” blocking any eviction and demolition order for at least the next 15 years, according to Ir Amim, an Israeli rights group that closely follows developments in the city.

The families would have been able to continue arguing their case in Israeli courts. But it would have forced them to at least temporarily attest to the settlers’ ownership of the properties, which could weaken the families’ case going forward, and pay rent to the settlers.

The four families are among dozens in Jerusalem who are threatened with eviction by Jewish settler organizations in several cases that have been working their way through the Israeli court system for decades.

The settlers are making use of an Israeli law that allows them to claim properties that were owned by Jews prior to the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. Palestinians who lost homes, properties and lands in the same conflict do not have the right to recover them.

There was no immediate comment from the settlers, but Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King, a staunch supporter, said they had accepted the offer.


Video: Officer shoots Illinois inmate after struggle for gun
Legal Network | 2021/11/01 17:46
Illinois State Police have released video footage showing a tense scene involving an inmate’s attack on a correctional officer at a courthouse and another officer firing his weapon at the inmate and injuring him.

Authorities said 55-year-old Fredrick Goss was at the Jefferson County Courthouse earlier this month for a trial. He was uncuffed while being transported in a wheelchair to trial where he was to be unrestrained.

Footage of the incident, released Friday on an Illinois State Police Facebook page, appeared to show Goss grabbing an officer’s gun and struggling with him before a deputy stepped in and shot Goss, who was hospitalized.

Police did not release further details about his injuries.

The correctional officer had minor injuries while the deputy wasn’t hurt, according to state police.

“To protect the life of the correctional officer and himself, the deputy confronted the armed inmate and was forced to fire his weapon,” police said in a news release. “The inmate was injured by the gunfire. Immediate assistance was requested.”

Goss was facing trial for an armed robbery and exchanging gunfire with police.

A message left Sunday for Matt Vaughn, a public defender in Jefferson County who has represented Goss, wasn’t immediately returned.

Online court records show the case is scheduled for a Nov. 30 status hearing.


Cambodia amends charter to bar dual citizens from top office
Legal Network | 2021/10/26 23:06
Lawmakers in Cambodia on Monday approved an amendment to the constitution barring Cambodians with dual citizenship from holding high government office, a move initiated by Prime Minister Hun Sen and directed at prominent opposition politicians.

The government says the measure is meant to show officials’ loyalty to their homeland and avoid foreign interference. Several opposition leaders hold dual citizenship, while none of the top members of Hun Sen’s party is known to hold dual nationality.

The move is the latest volley in a long struggle for power between Hun Sen, who has led the country for 36 years, and his political rivals from the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which had been the sole credible opposition force until it was disbanded by the Supreme Court.

Unsupported assertions by Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled founder of the opposition party, that Hun Sen sought to purchase citizenship from the European nation of Cyprus triggered the prime minister’s anger. Cypriot nationality has been available through large investments in the island nation.

Sam Rainsy has feuded bitterly with Hun Sen for years. He holds French citizenship and has been living near Paris to avoid imprisonment in Cambodia on charges he says are politically motivated.

“This law would be custom-tailored to target me, as Hun Sen made it clear that as a reprisal against me, he wants to definitely block me from the premiership,” Sam Rainsy said on his Facebook page earlier this month.

Most top leaders of the opposition party fled Cambodia in late 2017, when Hun Sen launched a sweeping crackdown on critics and the high court disbanded the party and removed its lawmakers from Parliament. It is widely believed the court acted to ensure victory for Hun Sen’s party in the 2018 general election, which it ended up sweeping.


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