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High court: Held immigrants can't get periodic bond hearings
Legal Opinions | 2018/03/01 12:15
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that immigrants the government has detained and is considering deporting aren't entitled by law to periodic bond hearings.

The case is a class-action lawsuit brought by immigrants who've spent long periods in custody. The group includes some people facing deportation because they've committed a crime and others who arrived at the border seeking asylum.

The San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had ruled for the immigrants, saying that under immigration law they had a right to periodic bond hearings. The court said the immigrants generally should get bond hearings after six months in detention, and then every six months if they continue to be held.

But the Supreme Court reversed that decision Tuesday and sided with the Trump administration, which had argued against the ruling, a position also taken by the Obama administration.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for five justices that immigration law doesn't require periodic bond hearings. But the justices sent the case back to the appeals court to consider whether the case should continue as a class action and the immigrants' arguments that the provisions of immigration law they are challenging are unconstitutional.

But Justice Stephen Breyer, writing a dissenting opinion joined by two other liberal-leaning justices on the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said he would have read the provisions of immigration law to require hearings for people detained for a prolonged period of time.

"The bail questions before us are technical but at heart they are simple," Breyer wrote. "We need only recall the words of the Declaration of Independence, in particular its insistence that all men and women have 'certain unalienable Rights,' and that among them is the right to 'Liberty,'" he wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case on behalf of the immigrants, had previously said that about 34,000 immigrants are being detained on any given day in the United States, and 90 percent of immigrants' cases are resolved within six months. But some cases take much longer.

In the case before the justices, Mexican immigrant Alejandro Rodriguez was detained for more than three years without a bond hearing. He was fighting deportation after being convicted of misdemeanor drug possession and joyriding, and was ultimately released and allowed to stay in the United States.

Afghans submitted 1.17 million war crimes claims to court
Legal Opinions | 2018/02/13 23:12
Since the International Criminal Court began collecting material three months ago for a possible war crimes case involving Afghanistan, it has gotten a staggering 1.17 million statements from Afghans who say they were victims.

The statements include accounts of alleged atrocities not only by groups like the Taliban and the Islamic State group, but also involving Afghan Security Forces and government-affiliated warlords, the U.S.-led coalition, and foreign and domestic spy agencies, said Abdul Wadood Pedram of the Human Rights and Eradication of Violence Organization.

Based in part on the many statements, ICC judges in The Hague would then have to decide whether to seek a war crimes investigation. It's uncertain when that decision will be made.

The statements were collected between Nov. 20, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2018, by organizations based in Europe and Afghanistan and sent to the ICC, Pedram said. Because one statement might include multiple victims and one organization might represent thousands of victim statements, the number of Afghans seeking justice from the ICC could be several million.

"It is shocking there are so many," Pedram said, noting that in some instances, whole villages were represented. "It shows how the justice system in Afghanistan is not bringing justice for the victims and their families."

The ICC did not give details about the victims or those providing the information.

"I have the names of the organizations, but because of the security issues, we don't want to name them because they will be targeted," said Pedram, whose group is based in Kabul.

Many of the representations include statements involving multiple victims, which could be the result of suicide bombings, targeted killings or airstrikes, he said.

Russia court cancels journalist's deportation to Uzbekistan
Legal Opinions | 2018/01/18 15:14
Russia's highest court has annulled an order to deport a reporter to his native Uzbekistan. The Supreme Court has overturned the Moscow City Court's decision to send Khudoberdy Nurmatov to the Central Asian nation, which has shown little tolerance to dissent. In a ruling released Wednesday, the Supreme Court said the order to deport the journalist was unsubstantiated and sent the case back to the Moscow court.

Nurmatov fled Uzbekistan in 2008 after he was allegedly tortured and coerced into collaborating with security agencies. He has been repeatedly denied asylum in Russia.

In August, the Moscow City Court suspended an earlier ruling to deport him after the European Court of Human Rights had obliged Russia to halt the move amid fears that Nurmatov may face torture in Uzbekistan.

Top German court rejects ex-Auschwitz guard's prison appeal
Legal Opinions | 2017/12/27 14:07
Germany's highest court said Friday it has thrown out a bid by a 96-year-old former Auschwitz death camp guard for a reprieve on serving his sentence as an accessory to murder.

Oskar Groening was convicted in July 2015 of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews and sentenced to four years in prison. A federal court rejected his appeal against the conviction last year.

Groening has remained free during a dispute over his fitness for prison. Prosecutors argued that he is fit to serve time so long as there is appropriate medical care, and regional courts threw out appeals against their decision.

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court said it has now rejected a complaint arguing that Groening's fundamental right to life and physical safety was being violated. In the ruling dated Dec. 21 and released Friday, it said it saw no constitutional reason to question the lower courts' rulings.

The supreme court noted that German law allows for prison sentences to be interrupted if a detainee's health deteriorates significantly.

It wasn't immediately clear when Groening will be formally summoned to start serving his sentence, but he isn't expected to go to prison before the new year.

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