05/01/13: The Blog of Legal Times reports the Justice Department has renewed its effort to shut down a lawsuit in Washington over the scope of information a former US defense intelligence officer can publish in a memoir about service in the war in Afghanistan. DOJ lawyers said in court papers filed April 26 that the government has determined that some of the details in the book, Operation Dark Heart, written by Anthony Shaffer, are classified and cannot be publicly disclosed. “[T]here is no First Amendment right to publish classified information,” DOJ lawyer Scott Risner wrote. Shaffer’s book, DOJ said, reveals “intelligence activities, sources and methods, as well as information about military plans and the foreign activities of the United States that … could reasonably be expected to cause serious identifiable damage to our national security.”
04/28/13: Al Jazeera reports Cairo’s criminal court has rejected ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s second appeal calling for his release pending the investigation of illicit gain charges, granting the prosecution’s request to keep him detained. The Cairo Criminal Court on Sunday ordered Mubarak to remain in jail for fifteen days while charges are probed; Mubarak can appeal the decision. Mubarak is being detained pending the investigations of other corruption charges including taking funds allocated for maintenance of the presidential palaces for himself and his family. The long-time autocrat was ousted during a 2011 public uprising and has spent more than two years in detention without a final verdict in the case, which alleges that he is responsible for the deaths of nearly 900 protesters during the uprising.
04/04/13: The New York Times reports shen a fugitive African warlord, Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, gave himself up in March to the US Embassy in Rwanda and asked to be sent to the Internaitonal Criminal Court here, American diplomats publicized the episode and swiftly brokered the transfer. Court officials were elated. “It was important that Washington was so upfront about cooperating,” one official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not an authorized spokesman. “It was a great boost for the court.” On Wednesday, Washington is expected to further bolster the decade-old court, an institution that it initially tried to sink and still has no intention of joining. As part of its Rewards for Justice program, the State Department plans to pay up to $5 million for information leading to the arrests of fugitives in atrocity cases. It will issue a list of names that for the first time will include some of the court’s most-wanted fugitives, the United States ambassador for global criminal justice said in an interview. The names will be broadcast on radio and appear on reward posters printed in the languages of the fugitives’ countries, he said. “The offer of rewards for ICC fugitives will be the biggest step we’ve taken toward engagement and support” for the court, he said. Under US law, no money can be paid directly to the court. But a law adopted by Congress in January allows for payments to third parties for crucial information leading to fugitive arrests. Similar payments were offered to track down fugitives from the courts investigating atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Washington can also help the court in more discreet, indirect ways, by, for example, protecting crucial witnesses, sharing DNA data and providing forensic assistance, he said, declining to give details. As the court has become better known and its approval rating has risen in American public opinion polls, the United States has replaced its outright hostility with a measure of cooperation.
03/31/13: The New York Times reports Kenya’s Supreme Court Saturday unanimously upheld the election victory of Uhuru Kenyatta as the country’s president, dismissing allegations that the vote had been rigged. But almost immediately, protests erupted in some opposition strongholds, with stone-throwing mobs squaring off against Kalashnikov-toting police officers – and Kenyatta’s legal battles are hardly over. As Kenya’s next president, Kenyatta will soon be summoned to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to stand trial on charges of crimes against humanity, accused of using his vast family fortune to bankroll death squads during the chaos that exploded after Kenya’s last disputed election in 2007. He says he is innocent and that the charges are based on gossip, but many Western officials believe otherwise. Still, the US may now have little choice but to work with Kenyatta.
03/31/13: Reuters reports Egyptian prosecutors questioned the country’s most prominent television satirist Sunday over allegations he insulted President Mohammed Morsi and Islam, a case that has increased opposition fears of a crackdown on dissent. Bassem Youssef turned himself in after the prosecutor general issued an arrest warrant for him on Saturday. Youssef rose to fame after the uprising that swept Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, with a satirical online show. His program, which has been compared the US Daily Show with Jon Stewart, is now broadcast on Egyptian TV. The comedian is accused, among other things, of undermining the standing of the Islamist President Morsi. The arrest warrant was issued after at least four legal complaints filed by Morsi supporters.
03/29/13: The New York Times reports a former American soldier was charged Thursday with fighting alongside a terrorist group that is battling the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, whose ouster the United States has sought for nearly two years. The soldier, Eric Harroun, 30, of Phoenix, who served in the United States Army from 2000 to 2003, is accused of entering Syria in January and participating in attacks on Assad forces led by the Al Nusra Front, which American officials say is part of Al Qaeda in Iraq, a designated terrorist group. Mr. Harroun, who posted reports about his time in Syria on Facebook and YouTube, was charged in Alexandria, Va., with “conspiring to use a destructive device outside the United States,” a crime that can carry a life sentence. He was arrested Wednesday after arriving at Dulles International Airport and made an initial appearance in Federal District Court on Thursday. According to an affidavit filed in the case, Mr. Harroun told an FBI agent, Paul Higginbotham, that he was part of an “RPGteam,” firing rocket-propelled grenades, which qualify as a “destructive device” under the law. The charge does not have any connection to terrorism, though more charges could be filed later.
03/26/13: Foreign Policy published an article by Phillip Carter and Deborah Pearlstein arguing we've already figured out how to win the legal war on terrorism. The Justice Department in fact has a far better record than the Defense Department in prosecuting and convicting terrorist suspects. Surveillance abroad by military and intelligence agencies, strong allied cooperation, coupled with US prosecution and incarceration -- has now been used successfully in a range of cases. This blended, postwar approach works precisely because the military plays a supporting, not a leading, role. A number of foreign intelligence and law enforcement agencies are far more likely to cooperate with their American intelligence and law enforcement counterparts than they are with the US military. This was true in the Abu Ghaith case for Turkey and Jordan, two key allies in the counterterrorism effort against al Qaeda, both of which cooperated with US intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The same was true in the Harun case, in which Italian authorities gave the suspect to the United States upon assurances he would be prosecuted in civilian court -- and not transferred to Guantánamo Bay or charged before a military commission. Let's be clear: This is not a call for a law-enforcement-only approach. It is not a rejection of military force (including the power to detain) when a public case can be made that force is necessary to US national security and in keeping with our obligations under domestic and international law. The time has come for the United States to transition from its current war footing to a long-term, sustainable counterterrorism strategy
03/25/13: The Miami Herald reports Zimbabwe’s High Court Monday ordered the immediate release of a prominent human rights lawyer detained for eight days for obstructing justice. Court officials said Beatrice Mtetwa was asked to post a $500 bail and her release papers will be prepared Monday. High Court Judge Joseph Musakwa ruled that Mtetwa was following professional legal procedures when she demanded to see a search warrant from police at the offices of four officials in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party. Those officials are accused of illegally compiling information on high level corruption and will appeal for bail later Monday. Mtetwa and the four officials deny any wrongdoing. Lawyers’ groups have cited the arrests as intimidation against opponents of President Robert Mugabe by loyalist police and officials ahead of elections around July.