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Updated: 1 hour 25 min ago

Tunisia: Government Lifts Ban on Inter-Religious Marriages

3 hours 1 min ago

(Sept. 19, 2017) On September 14, 2017, the Tunisian government lifted a ban on inter-religious marriages between Muslim Tunisian females and non-Muslim males. (Tunisia Lifts Ban on Muslim Women Marrying Non-Muslims, AL JAZEERA (Sept. 14, 2017).) This measure was issued by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi.  During his speech on the national Women’s Day that took place on August 13, 2017, Essebsi had proposed amendments to the provisions governing rules of inheritance and marriage contracts in the Personal Status Law of 1956. (Ahmed Nadhif, Tunisian President Calls for Gender Equality in Inheritance Law, AL-MONITOR (Aug. 21, 2017); Order of 13 August 1956, 66 AL RAA’D AL RASMI [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] (Aug. 17, 1956) (in Arabic).)

Essebsi proposed the repeal of the inheritance provision that grants men the right to inherit twice as much as women and adoption of a new provision that allows women to inherit on an equal basis with men.  Furthermore, he suggested the abolishment of the provision that bans inter-religious marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.  It has already been legal for Muslim men to marry outside their religion.  (Essebsi Calls for the Modification of a Piece of Legislation Banning Tunisian Women from Marrying Non-Muslims, MOSAIQUEFM (Aug. 13, 2017) (in Arabic).)

Reactions to the Proposed Amendments

The statement of the President sparked widespread opposition among religious groups, which argued that it is in direct violation of Islamic law because it is Islamic law that governs such family matters. In a joint statement, Islamist political groups claimed that allowing inter-religious marriages and granting equal portions of inheritance to females conflict with the Quran and the main principles of Islamic Shari’a law.  (Nawal Sayed, Tunisian Opposition Call for Ouster of President Essebsi, EGYPT TODAY (Aug. 16, 2017).)

On the other hand, individuals supporting Essebsi contend that his approach towards inter-religious marriages and female inheritance adheres to provision 21 of the Tunisian Constitution of 2014. (Nadhif, supra.) Article 21 provides that “all citizens, male and female, have equal rights and duties, and are equal before the law without any discrimination.” (Tunisia’s Constitution of 2014, CONSTITUTE PROJECT (unofficial English translation).) Essebsi’s supporters say that the proposed amendments are also in line with article 46 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “the state commits to protect women’s accrued rights and works to strengthen and develop those rights” and”[t]he state guarantees the equality of opportunities between women and men to have access to all levels of responsibility in all domains.”  (Id. art. 46; Nadhif, supra.)

Israel: Parliament Establishes New Department for Government Oversight

5 hours 53 min ago

(Sept. 19, 2017) A special parliamentary unit for oversight of governmental actions was recently established in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). The Knesset Unit for Parliamentary Oversight (KATEF, based on the Hebrew acronym, which also means “shoulder(s)” in Hebrew).  (Press Release, The Knesset Establishes a Unit for Coordination and Oversight of the Government (Sept. 30, 2017), Knesset website  (in Hebrew).)

KATEF will operate in coordination with the Knesset’s committees, legal department, and Information and Research Center (KIRC) and with government offices. KATEF’s work will be guided equally by the coalition majority and the opposition. Former KIRC head Dr. Shirely Avrami will head KATEF, which will operate directly under the Knesset Director General.  (Id.)

KATEF’s establishment follows several hearings by a Knesset House Committee on examining ways to strengthen the Knesset’s oversight of the government. Among concerns raised at a May 24, 2017, hearing were the non-compliance of government officials with requests to appear before Knesset committees and the exorbitant number of private member bills filed.  (Reformation of the Relations Between the Government and the Knesset, House Committee website (May 24, 2017) (in Hebrew).)

Among other possible actions, KATEF is expected to address concerns about the government’s sometime lack of issuance of implementing regulations for Knesset legislation, resulting, in the view of the Knesset House Speaker, in weakening the status of the Knesset. (Gideon Alon, Knesset: The Responsibility Is on the Shoulders, YISRAEL HAYOM (July 23, 2017) (in Hebrew).)

Kyrgyzstan: Court Denies Ballot Petition of Opposition Leader

Tue, 12/09/2017 - 20:30

(Sept. 12, 2017) On August 31, 2017, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan upheld a lower court’s rejection of a petition to list opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev on the presidential election ballot this October. (Elizabeth Lowman, Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court Rejects Petition to Put Imprisoned Opposition Leader on Ballot, PAPER CHASE (Aug. 31, 2017).)  Although a petition was  submitted with about 39,000 signatures in support of Tekebaev’s nomination, well over the  30,000 required, the Central Election Commission had contended that the signatures were not valid because his election fund did not cover the expenses of collecting the signatures.  (Id.)

Background

Tekebaev was placed in pre-trial detention in February 2017, with his detention confirmed by the Supreme Court in March, on charges of bribery, charges his supporters say are politically motivated. (Kyrgyz Supreme Court Upholds Detention of Opposition Leader, RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY (Mar. 29, 2017).) He was subsequently convicted and is now serving an eight-year term of imprisonment. (Lowman, supra.)

Relevant Law

Under Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution, the Supreme Court is “the highest body of judicial power in respect of civil, criminal, administrative as well as other cases; it shall revise the court rulings of local courts upon appeals of the participants in the judicial process in accordance with procedures established by the law.” (Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution of 2010, art. 96(1), CONSTITUTE PROJECT.) Its decisions are final and cannot be appealed.  (Id. art. 96(3).)

The law that governs presidential elections specifies that candidates for the presidency must have 30,000 signatures and that these signatures must be collected by authorized representatives of the candidate. (The Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Presidential and Jogorku Kenesh Elections in the Kyrgyz Republic (2011, as amended in 2017), art. 52, ¶¶ 1 & 2, LEGISLATION LINE (click on link embedded in the title of the law).)  The same law specifies that registration of a candidate will be canceled if a criminal court sentence for that candidate has entered into force.  (Id. art. 46, ¶2(8).)

Japan: Basel Act Amended

Tue, 12/09/2017 - 17:30

(Sept. 12, 2017) The Act on Control of Export, Import, etc. of Specified Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes (Basel Convention Act, Act No. 108 of 1992, E-GOV (in Japanese) is a Japanese domestic law corresponding to the Basel Convention to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes.  (Overview, Basel Convention website (last visited Sept. 1, 2017).)  The Diet (Japan’s parliament) recently amended the Act and the amendment Act was promulgated on June 16, 2017.  (Act No. 62 of 2017, KANPO, Extra Ed. No.128, at 33 (June 16, 2017) (in Japanese).)  The amendment will be effective within one and a half years from the date of promulgation. (Id. Supp. Provisions, art. 1.)

The Basel Convention Act requires that people involved in the import and export of specified hazardous wastes for disposal or recycling obtain approval from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act (Act No. 228 of 1949). (Basel Convention Act, art. 4 ¶ 1 & art. 8 ¶ 1.) The amended Act aims to enhance export regulations to achieve the purpose of the Convention.  (METI & Ministry of the Environment, Regarding a Bill to Partially Amend the Act on Control of Export, Import etc. of Specified Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes (Basel Convention Act), METI website (Mar. 2017), (in Japanese).)

In order to effectively regulate mixed wastes that include specified hazardous wastes, the amendment clarifies the scope of the specified hazardous wastes, specifying them in a Ministry of the Environment ordinance. (Basel Convention Act, art. 2 ¶ 1 item 1(a).)  The amended Act also adds wastes that are designated as hazardous wastes by the domestic legislation of another country and that are to be exported to that country to the definition of specified hazardous wastes under the Basel Act.  (Id. new art. 2 ¶ 1 item 1(e).)  In addition, the amended Act clarifies what the Minister of Environment considers to be necessary pollution prevention measures of countries to which specified hazardous waste are exported.  (Id. new art. 4 ¶ 3.)  The METI Minister needs the Minister of Environment’s notification confirming that the necessary measures have been taken in the given country before the METI Minister can approve the export of the specified hazardous wastes.  (Id. art. 4 ¶ 4.)

Further, the amended Act aims to enhance the competitiveness of the domestic recycling business. It removes imports of relatively less hazardous wastes, such as electronic substrate materials when imported for recycling purposes, from regulation under the Act.  (Id. new art. 4 ¶ 3.)

United Kingdom: Sentences for Terrorism-Related Offenses May Be Lengthened

Tue, 12/09/2017 - 14:30

With almost half a century of legislative experience, the United Kingdom is renowned for its robust anti-terrorism laws. The operation of these laws is reviewed on an annual basis by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. (The Independent Reviewer’s Role, INDEPENDENT REVIEWER OF TERRORISM LEGISLATION (last visited Sept. 6, 2017).)

In a recent interview with the Press Association, the Independent Reviewer, Max Hill, was reported as stating that given the number and severity of recent attacks in the UK the current maximum sentence for certain offenses may be too lenient. He stated that “[w]ith the benefit of experience and hindsight it may be the case that some offences have insufficient discretionary maximum sentences, which should be reviewed.” (Maximum Terror Prison Sentences ‘May Be Too Low,’ BBC NEWS (Sept. 2, 2017).)

Of particular concern, according to Hill, are the offenses of failing to provide information to the police if a person knows or believes the information might be of material assistance to:

  • prevent the commission of an act of terrorism or
  • secure the arrest, prosecution, or conviction of a person in the UK for a terrorism offense. (Terrorism Act 2000, c. 11, § 38B, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

The current maximum penalty upon conviction for this offense is up to five years of imprisonment and a fine. Hill has stated that this penalty should be reviewed to assess whether it is sufficient. (Maximum Terror Prison Sentences ‘May Be Too Low’, supra.)

Review of ‘Unduly Lenient’ Sentences

While Hill has suggested the need for an increased penalty, the laws of England and Wales allow the Attorney General independently, as well as upon referral from members of the public, to challenge punishments for a number of criminal and terrorism offenses under the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme. Under this plan, members of the public can request that the Attorney General review a case to see if the sentence is “unduly lenient.” If the Attorney General believes that the sentence is unduly lenient, he   may refer the case within 28 days of the original sentencing to the Court of Appeal for review. (Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, c. 6, § 155, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

The reasons the Attorney General may consider a sentence as unduly lenient are if that sentence:   

  • blunts the deterrent effect of the criminal law;
  • causes outrage to the victim;
  • is demoralizing to the police;
  • causes injustice to those who were appropriately sentenced;
  • undermines public confidence in the administration of justice and the authority of the courts;
  • may cause public danger; or
  • hinders development of a rational sentencing policy by the Court of Appeal. (House of Commons Library, Review of Unduly Lenient Sentences, Briefing Paper No. 00512 (June 30, 2017), at 4, Parliament website.)

Recently, in the wake of some individuals convicted of terrorism offenses receiving sentences that were considered by many to be too lenient and facing the inability to review them, the Justice Minister, Dominic Raab, added a number of additional terrorism offenses to the Scheme to enable the Court of Appeal to review additional cases, noting that the aim was to “reinforce our focus on deterring people who help radicalise terrorists, and punishing those who willfully turn a blind eye to terrorist activity.” (Owen Bowcott, Law to Be Changed so Terror Offenders’ Jail Terms Can Be Lengthened, GUARDIAN (London) (July 14, 2017).)

Israel: High Court Rejects Petition to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

Mon, 11/09/2017 - 20:30

(Sept. 11, 2017) On August 31, 2017, Israel’s Supreme Court, sitting as a High Court of Justice, unanimously rejected a petition by Israel’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Task Force and individual petitioners. Petitioners had requested that the Court  recognize same-sex marriages and declare that sections 1-2 of the Rabbinical Court Jurisdiction Law, 5713-1953, which submit Jewish Israelis to the jurisdiction of rabbinical courts that adjudicate under Jewish law, do not apply to LGBT Israelis.  In the alternative, petitioners requested to declare that these provisions were void for allegedly conflicting with their rights to have a family and to enjoy equal treatment under the law, based on Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.  (HCJ 7339/15 Israel Organization for Protection of Individual Rights v. Ministry of Interior (decision rendered Aug. 31, 2017), STATE OF ISRAEL: THE JUDICIAL AUTHORITY; Rabbinical Court Jurisdiction Law, 5713-1953 (as amended), SEFER HAHUKIM [OFFICIAL GAZETTE, SH] 5713 No. 134 p. 165; Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty 5752-1992 (as amended), SH 5752 No. 1391 p. 150 (all in Hebrew).)

According to Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, with Justices Neal Hendel and Anat Baron concurring:

Essentially, the petitioners are asking from the court to recognize same-sex marriage via legislation, despite the fact that they are not recognized by Israeli law… .  On the matter of recognizing marriage that was not conducted in accordance to the religious law – including same-sex marriage – it was ruled [by the court] in the past that it is better that the issue be determined by the legislative branch.  (HCJ 7339/15, ¶ 28, translated in Udi Shaham, Supreme Court Rejects Petition to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage, JERUSALEM POST (Aug. 31, 2017).)

Recognition of a new legal status of marriage for same-sex relationships, according to Rubinstein, is a “heavy and charged subject” with religious implications in “a Jewish and democratic state.” (HCJ 7339/15, ¶ 28, translations by author R.L.)  It therefore requires a legislative determination and cannot be achieved through judicial decisions. This conclusion, Rubinstein emphasized, “does not diminish LGBT rights in other areas,” referring to social and economic rights.  (Id.)

Noting that a number of countries, including the United States, have recognized same-sex marriage, Rubinstein concluded that in most countries such recognition was done through legislation.  (Id. ¶ 29.)

Canada: Senate Passes Landmark Transgender Rights Bill

Mon, 11/09/2017 - 17:30

(Sept. 11, 2017) On June 15, 2017, the Transgender Rights Bill C-16 passed the third reading in the Senate of Canada, with a 67-11 vote.  (Phil Heidenreich, Senate Passes Bill C-16 Which Defends Transgender Rights, GLOBAL NEWS (June 16 2017).)  The bill officially became law on June 19, when royal assent to it was granted. (Bill C-16, Parliament of Canada website (June 19, 2017).)  Bill C-16 aims to prevent violence and discrimination against individuals on the basis of their gender identity or their gender expression “within the sphere of federal jurisdiction.”  (Julian Walker Legislative Summary of Bill C-16: An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, Parliament of Canada website (Oct. 21, 2016).)

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), gender identity is defined as a person’s “sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum.”  The OHRC explains that gender identity can be expressed through “behaviour and outward appearances such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice.  A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender.” (Gender Identity and Gender Expression (Brochure), OHCR (last visited Aug. 21, 2017).)

Background

The past few years have led to a better understanding of transgender individuals in Canada. This increase of respect is due to human rights campaigning, activism, education and government lobbying. Canada, however, lacks explicit legal protections for transgender individuals, which makes them the targets of institutionalized and societal discrimination and prejudice.  (Matthew P. Ponsford, The Law, Psychiatry and Pathologization of Gender-Confirming Surgery for Transgender Ontarians, 38 WINDSOR REVIEW OF LEGAL & SOCIAL ISSUES 20, 37 (2017), p. 21.)

In the past, two other, similar bills were presented in Parliament and both died without even coming to a vote. The first was introduced in 2005 and the second, Bill C-279, in 2015; thus, June 15, 2017, represents the end of a decade-long battle for legal protection of transgender persons.  (Julie Moreau, Canadian Lawmakers Pass Bill Extending Transgender Protections, NBC NEWS (June 16, 2017).)

With a view to remedying the lack of a legal framework, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced Bill C-16 on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, May 17, 2016. (Susana Mas, Transgender Canadians Should ‘Feel Free and Safe’ to Be Themselves Under New Liberal Bill, CBC NEWS (May 17, 2016).)

Bill C-16

Bill C-16 amends the Canadian Human Rights Act as well as the Criminal Code (Canadian Human Rights Act, R.S.C. (1985), ch. H-6; Criminal Code, R.S.C. (1985), c. C-46 (both JUSTICE LAWS WEBSITE.)  The Canadian Human Rights Act “prohibits discrimination by federally regulated employers or service providers, including federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations, First Nations governments and private, federally regulated companies, such as banks, trucking companies, broadcasters and telecommunications companies.”  (Walker, supra.)

The amending legislation adds gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act:

For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered. (Bill C-16, § 2, amending § 3(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.)

By doing so, the Canadian legislation acknowledges their marginalization and the unique social challenges that trans- and gender diverse persons face in their everyday life which is a big step toward, since historically, transgender individuals were “socially erased.” The new law explicitly identifies trans- and gender-diverse persons as an oppressed and vulnerable minority and grants them equality in federally regulated workplaces and services.  (Matthew P. Ponsford, The Law, Psychiatry and Pathologization of Gender-Confirming Surgery for Transgender Ontarians, WINDSOR REVIEW OF LEGAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES 23 (last revised May 10, 2017).)  For example, Bill C-16 could push institutions such as penitentiaries to change their policies on the placement of trans- and gender-diverse inmates in gendered facilities.  (Moreau, supra.)

The amendment of the Criminal Code also identifies trans- and gender-diverse persons as a distinct group. Moreover, when a trans- or gender-diverse person is a victim of a crime, Bill C-16 allows the judge, in his sentencing, to take into consideration whether or not the crime was motivated by hatred against gender diversity or expression, that is, to consider “evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor.”  (Bill C-16, § 4, amending § 718.2(2)(I) of the Criminal Code.)

The new legislation, as the above amendments indicate, offers better protections against hate speech, hate propaganda, and hate crimes directed against transgender individuals. In the view of René Basque, President of the Canadian Bar Association, while the bill will not in itself stop the violence against this group of persons,  to  ”[i]t will send an important signal to the transgender community that Canadians are committed to building a safer society for all.” (Letter from René Basque, President of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA),  to the Honourable Bob Runciman, Chair, Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Senate of Canada, at 2, CBA website (May 10, 2017).)

Reactions

Bill C-16 has been controversial, raising many concerns among its opponents and giving rise to heated debate.  Jordan Peterson, psychology professor at the University of Toronto, was one of the main opponents of the legislation.  Peterson says that gender neutral pronouns are  “constructions of people that have a political ideology.”  (Genders, Rights and Freedom of Speech, The Agenda with Steve Paikin, TVO (Oct. 26, 2016).)   He also believes that the new law will compel the use of gender neutral pronouns in private speech, an argument that the Canadian Bar Association strongly rejected.  (Sarah Reid, Everything You Need to Know About the Transgender Rights Bill, TVO (May 30, 2017); Justin Ling, Canada’s Transgender Rights Bill Could Become Law Before the Summer, Despite Some Controversial Opponents, VICE (May 17 2017).)

Conservative Senator Don Plett was also a strong opponent of Bill C-16.  He argued that “gender expression” is a vague term and that including such a non-“immutable characteristic” as a ground for discrimination could lead to constitutional challenges.  (Reid, supra.)

Finally, some opponents were concerned that Bill C-16 would represent a step backward for the feminist cause. They argued, for example, that it would potentially endanger women by allowing men who identify as women to go into women-only spaces such as bathrooms or shelters.  (John Paul Tasker, Canada Enacts Protections for Transgender Community, CBC NEWS (June 16 2017).) Marni Panas, an outspoken transgender advocate, reacted to these concerns by saying they were mostly the result of “common myths” and “misunderstanding about trans people.” (Moreau, supra.)

However, many reactions to Bill C-16 were positive. Randy Boissonault, special adviser to the Prime Minister, characterized the legislation as “a critical extension of human rights” that “saves lives.”  (Moreau, supra.) The majority of Canadian lawyers and members of the Canadian Bar Association endorsed the legislation, and the 67-11 vote indicates that although the opponents were loud, they were a small minority.  (Reid, supra; Moreau, supra.)

Prepared by Marie-Philippe Lavoie, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Tariq Ahmad, Foreign Law Specialist.

Laos: Draft Resolution on Administrative Courts

Mon, 11/09/2017 - 14:30

(Sept. 11, 2017) It was reported on July 19, 2017, that discussions had been held in Laos on the draft National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee Resolution on Administrative Case Procedure, and that the People’s Supreme Court and the Institute for Legal Support and Technical Assistance (ILSTA) had convened some 30 senior legal experts from all relevant sectors to finalize the draft before it is submitted for debate in the next session of the unicameral NA.  (Somsack Pongkhao, Laos to Establish Administrative Courts, VIENTIANE TIMES (July 19, 2017); Lao People’s Democratic Republic: Sapha Heng Xat (National Assembly), Inter-Parliamentary Union website (last updated June 13, 2016).)  The drafters had held several previous consultations on the draft resolution and also taken study tours to Vietnam, Thailand, and France in connection with working out its provisions.  (Somsack, supra.)

The aim if the draft legislation isto better address administrative disputes between executive agencies and the general public,” allowing Lao citizens to file lawsuits against government officials and government organs “for alleged mistreatment or inappropriate exercise of power and for carelessness or negligence” in serving the public.  (Id.)  According to Deputy Minister of Justice Ket Kiettisak, in the past, because of the lack of administrative courts and the relevant legal framework, there had been legal disputes over such issues as land use, hospital treatment, taxation, the environment, and public payments and other State services, but no lawsuits could be lodged.  (Id.) 

Ket, who described the draft resolution as “a milestone in the development of the legal sector in Laos,” stated that it would establish provincial/capital-level administrative courts and a court at the Supreme Court level, but that this system would not extend down to the district level.  (Id.)  In addition to providing a means for addressing disputes between executive agencies and the public, the courts will also provide a venue for disputes between state organizations themselves, between administrative agencies and civil servants, and between administrative agencies and non-state organizations.  (Id.)

Austria: Expropriation of Hitler’s Birthplace Held Constitutional

Fri, 08/09/2017 - 20:30

(Sept. 8, 2017) On June 30, 2017, the Austrian Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof Österreich, VfGH) held that the expropriation by law of the house in which Adolf Hitler was born was constitutional, thereby rejecting the application of the former owner of the house to declare the Expropriation Act void.  The Court stated that the expropriation was in the public interest, proportionate, and not without compensation. (VfGH, June 30, 2017, docket no. G 53/2017-23 (VfGH G53/2017-23), VfGH website (in German); Press Release No. G 53/2017, VfGH, Expropriation of Hitler’s Birthplace by Law Is Not Unconstitutional (June 30, 2017), VfGH website.)

Facts of the Case

In 2017, the Austrian parliament passed an act to expropriate the property located at Salzburger Vorstadt Nr. 15 in Braunau am Inn, the place where Adolf Hitler was born. (Bundesgesetz über die Enteignung der Liegenschaft Salzburger Vorstadt Nr. 15, Braunau am Inn [Enteignungsgesetz] [Federal Act on the Expropriation of the Property Located at Salzburger Vorstadt Nr. 15, Braunau am Inn] [Expropriation Act], BUNDESGESETZBLATT [BGBl.] [FEDERAL LAW GAZETTE] I No. 4/2017, RIS (Legal Information System of the Republic of Austria).) The law was passed to implement the recommendations of an expert commission set up by the Federal Ministry of the Interior to determine the historically appropriate handling of Adolf Hitler’s birthplace. The expert commission recommended making fundamental architectural changes to the building in order to prevent the identification of the property and deprive it of its symbolic power. (VfGH G53/2017-23, supra, at 33.)

According to the Expropriation Act, the purpose of the expropriation was to “permanently prevent the cultivation, promotion, and dissemination of National-Socialist ideology or a positive commemoration of National Socialism.” (Expropriation Act, § 1.) The law provided for fair compensation for the former owner. (Id. § 3.)

In February 2017, the District Court of Braunau am Inn granted the government’s request to expropriate the property in question based on the Expropriation Act. (VfGH G53/2017-23, supra, at 3). The applicant appealed that decision and simultaneously brought an action in the Constitutional Court alleging that the lower court had applied an unconstitutional law. (Id. at 10-12.) In her application, she asserted that the Expropriation Act violated her right to property guaranteed by article 5 of the Basic Law on the General Rights of Nationals in the Kingdoms and Länder Represented in the Council of the Realm (StGG) and article 1 of the Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). (Id. at 5; Staatsgrundgesetz vom 21. December 1867, über die allgemeinen Rechte der Staatsbürger für die im Reichsrathe vertretenen Königreiche und Länder [StGG] [Basic Law of 21 December 1867 on the General Rights of Nationals in the Kingdoms and Länder Represented in the Council of the Realm], REICHSGESETZBLATT [RGBl.] [REICHS LAW GAZETTE] No. 142/1867, RIS; Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR), Nov. 4, 1950, 213 U.N.T.S. 221, ECHR website.)

Decision

According to the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, an expropriation by legislative act is justified if it is in the public interest. An expropriation is in the public interest “if there is a concrete need whose fulfillment is in the public interest, if the object of expropriation is suitable to immediately meet that need and if it is impossible to meet the need other than by expropriation.” (VfGH G53/2017-23, supra, at 27.)

Public Interest and Concrete Need

With regard to the question of whether the measures taken were in the public interest, the Court first reiterated its settled case law that the unconditional rejection of National Socialism is a fundamental principle of the Austrian Republic restored in 1945. (Id. at 28.) The Court stated that the Austrian State Treaty, which has constitutional status, obligated Austria under international law to prevent national-socialist activities and propaganda to ensure the survival of the democratic system. (Id. at 29; Staatsvertrages betreffend die Wiederherstellung eines unabhängigen und demokratischen Österreich [State Treaty Concerning the Re-Establishment of an Independent and Democratic Austria], BGBl. No. 152/1955, as last amended in BGBl. I No. 2/2008, art. 9, RIS, English version available at CVCE.EU.)

The Court declared that all state organs have a special responsibility to prevent the dissemination of (neo) National-Socialist thinking in view of the historical context. (Id. at 32.) It further stated that the report of the expert commission found that the birthplace of Adolf Hitler has the potential to become a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and that right-wing extremist groups use their visits to the house to glorify national-socialist ideology. (Id. at 33 & 34.) The Court concluded that the government is therefore obligated to ensure that such criminal misuse of the property is prevented and that it is in the public interest to do so. (Id. at 34 & 35.)

Proportionality and Compensation 

The Court held that the expropriation was proportional. It stated that only the owner of the property has the power to deal with it at his or her discretion and can make the necessary architectural changes to the building to implement the expert commission’s recommendations.  In the Court’s view, the expropriation was necessary to prevent the sale of the property to a third party, especially given the fact that the federal government had unsuccessfully tried numerous times to purchase the property from the former owner. (Id. at 36.) As the Expropriation Act provided for fair compensation, the Court concluded that the right to property of the former owner was not violated. (Id. at 37.)

Turkey: More Emergency Decrees Issued

Fri, 08/09/2017 - 17:30

(Sept. 8, 2017) On August 25, 2017, the Turkish government issued two new emergency decrees, numbers 693 and 694. Decree Law 693 continues the pattern in earlier decrees of providing for

  • the dismissal of public servants and the closure of institutions and organizations deemed to be a threat to national security or affiliated with terrorist organizations;
  • the reinstatement of those persons or institutions/organizations cleared of such charges; and
  • the stripping of privileges of certain retired armed forces personnel. (Olaganüstü Hal Kapsaminda Bazi Tedbirler Alinmasi Hakkinda Kanun Hükmünde Kararname [Decree on Some Measures to Be Taken During the State of Emergency], KHK No. 693, RESMÎ GAZETE, No. 30165 (Aug. 25, 2017) (click on KHK 693 hyperlink to view text).)

The names of the individuals and organizations/institutions are set forth in six attached lists. (Id.)

The extensive Decree Law 694, in 205 articles, amends over 100 laws and decrees, “substantially [altering] 12 critical laws,” including those on the state intelligence service, judges and prosecutors, the Turkish Armed Forces, foreigners, the organization of the military and military schools.  (Metin Gurcan, Erdogan Hastens Executive Presidency with New Decree, AL-MONITOR (Aug. 30, 2017).)  Other important amended laws affect civil servants, the duties and organization of the Ministry of National Defense and of the gendarmerie, health organizations, and the administrative structure of the state.  (Oya Armutçu, New Turkish State of Emergency Decrees Ties Intelligence Agency to President, HÜRRIYET DAILY NEWS (Aug. 25, 2017); Olaganüstü Hal Kapsaminda Bazi Düzenlemeler Yapilmasi Hakkinda Kanun Hükmünde Kararname [Decree Law on Some Arrangements to Be Made During the State of Emergency], KHK No. 694, arts. 60-78, RESMÎ GAZETE [OFFICIAL GAZETTE], No. 30165 (Aug. 25, 2017) (click on KHK No. 694 hyperlink to view text).)

The Decree significantly adjusts the state intelligence and security bureaucracies and provides for the recruitment of “thousands of police and judiciary personnel.” (Gurcan, supra.)   Moreover, it is described as hastening the process of the transformation of the state to an executive presidency.  (Id.)

Particularly noteworthy are the major changes to the organizational structure of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) made under Decree Law 694 through the amendment of the Law on State Intelligence Services and National Intelligence Organization. For example, the Decree Law brings the Agency under the authority of the President of Turkey.  (Armutçu, supra; KHK No. 694, arts. 60-78;Devlet İstihbarat Hizmetleri ve Milli İstihbarat Teskilati Kanunu [Law on State Intelligence Services and National Intelligence Organization] (Nov. 1, 1983, as last amended effective Sept. 1, 2016), Law No. 2937, MİT website.)  Thus, the Prime Minister will no longer oversee the MİT undersecretary; instead, the President, currently Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will directly appoint not only the undersecretary but MİT’s deputy undersecretaries and other top management officials.  (Armutçu, supra.)  Other changes in regard to MIT include the following:

  • The President will now have to first approve any investigation undertaken and any testimony given by the MİT undersecretary. (Id.)
  • MIT is re-authorized to gather intelligence on the Turkish Armed Forces, its personnel, and personnel of the Defense Ministry; that function had been removed on November 28, 2011, after having been instituted in 1997 when an assassination attempt targeting then Chief of General Staff Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu that occurred in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus “revealed deficiencies about intelligence gathering within the military, … .”   (Id.) An MİT circular will be issued, after being confirmed by the President, to prescribe the procedures and principles on intelligence gathering activities, along with the duties of other institutions. (Id.) To avoid damage to the mutual trust between MİT and the Armed Forces, a protocol may be signed by them in relation to the changes. (Id.)
  • The National Intelligence Coordination Board (Milli İstihbarat Koordinasyon Kurulu, MİKK), which has been under the MİT, will also come under presidential authority, with the president now authorized to preside over it. (Id.)  The MIKK’s duties are defined under the new Decree Law as “providing a coordination regarding the fulfillment of the duties and obligations of the ministries and other public institutions and establishing and implementing basic principles of the directives of intelligence work,” and “[t]he secretariat duties of the board will be implemented by the [MİT] undersecretary.” (Id.)
  • Anyone who discloses the position, duties, or activities of MİT personnel or the identities of MİT staff and their families will face prison terms of between three and seven years. (Id.)
  • MİT personnel who “have been unable to adjust … to the conditions and qualifications” of the MİT will be reported to the state personnel directorate for a ten-day reassignment process, with dismissal from the MİT to occur within a maximum of 17 days. (Id.)

Two Other Recent Decrees

The Turkish government had also issued additional emergency decree laws in June and July 2017. Among other changes, Decree Law No. 691 of June 22, 2017, in 12 articles, adds Additional Article 10 to the Military Service Law, prescribing that “those who are members or have a relation to terrorist organizations or organizations that participate in actions against the state’s national security … will be taken under arms [sent to perform military service]” if they had previously been exempted.  (New Decree Law in Turkey Imposes Military Service on Terror Convicts, HÜRRIYET DAILY NEWS (June 23, 2017); Olağanüstü Hal Kapsaminda Bazi Düzenlemeler Yapilmasi Hakkinda Kanun Hükmünde Kararname [Decree Law on Some Arrangements to Be Made During the State of Emergency], KHK No. 691, art. 2, RESMÎ GAZETE, No. 30104 (2. Mükerrer) (June 22, 2017); Askerlik Kanunu [Military Service Law], Law No. 1111 (June 21, 1927, as last amended effective Aug. 25, 2017), MEVZUAT.)

According to Minister of Defense Fikri Isık, the new measure also was aimed at police officers who were exempted from military service, which otherwise is obligatory for all male Turkish citizens. He noted that if police officers leave their positions before completing their tenth year in force, they must fulfill the military service obligation.  In some cases, however, police officers had been exempted from that obligation.  The new Decree Law is aimed at those officers who had been exempted, making military service mandatory for them.  (New Decree Law in Turkey Imposes Military Service on Terror Convicts, supra.)

The June Decree Law also changes the protocol for detecting obstacles to helicopters by prescribing that information about any buildings, facilities, and any similar structures to be constructed or removed in Turkey that may affect flight safety is to be confirmed by the institutions and organizations that make, install, remove, construct, or permit the removal of these buildings and facilities and sent to the Map General Command.  Those institutions and organizations are also responsible for ensuring that the information is updated regularly and sent to the Map General Command, which will publish this information electronically.  The Ministry of National Defense will issue regulations that specify the principles and procedures for the implementation of this measure.  (Id.; KHK 691, art. 1, adding Additional Article 5 to the Map General Command Law; Harita Genel Komutanligi Kanunu [Map General Command Law], Law No. 657 (Apr. 22, 1925, as last amended effective June 22, 2017), MEVZUAT.) This new provision comes in the wake of a deadly May 31 crash of a helicopter that hit a high-voltage transmission line, killing 13 persons.  (New Decree Law in Turkey Imposes Military Service on Terror Convicts, supra.)

The June Decree Law additionally amends some provisions in Turkey’s criminal laws related to terrorist crimes. The Decree Law states, for example, that if a cautionary judgment has been made about the property of real and legal entities in cases involving crimes against the state and terrorism, but the court lacks grounds for legal action, the caution will now be lifted in two years, rather than the previously established one year.  (Id. art. 7, amending art. 20A ¶ 1 of the Anti-Terror Law; Terörle Mücadele Kanununun [Anti-Terror Law], Law No. 3713 (Apr. 12, 1991, as last amended effective Aug. 25, 2017), MEVZUAT.)   Furthermore, in cases involving crimes against the state, participation in a coup attempt, or terrorism, if a defendant’s address is unavailable “the court will only have to declare the summary of the case in a national newspaper with a circulation of over 50,000.  No further notification will be made to inform the defendants.”  (New Decree Law in Turkey Imposes Military Service on Terror Convicts, supra; KHK 691, art. 7, adding a new paragraph after art. 20A ¶ 1 of the Anti-Terror Law.)

In an amendment to the Military Criminal Code, the June Decree Law prescribes that soldiers who have stayed outside of Turkey for more than three days without official permission “will be considered ‘fugitive’ and punished accordingly.” (New Decree Law in Turkey Imposes Military Service on Terror Convicts, supra; KHK 691, art. 3, amending the Military Criminal Code (May 22, 1930, as amended), No. 1632, art. 67 ¶ 1A; Askerî Ceza Kanununun [Military Criminal Code], Law No. 1632 (May 22, 1930, as last amended effective Aug. 25, 2017), MEVZUAT.)  Turkey’s Constitutional Court had previously decided to cancel the prison terms of soldiers who were abroad without permission.  (New Decree Law in Turkey Imposes Military Service on Terror Convicts, supra.)  Isik stated that this provision is aimed at ensuring that there are no legal loopholes for fugitive members of the Fethullahist Terror Organization who have fled abroad.  (Id.)

The July 14, 2017, Decree Law No. 692, in eight articles and seven appended lists, provides for the dismissal from their jobs of more than 7,000 people and the reinstatement of 312 public workers to their posts. (Olaganüstü Hal Kapsaminda Bazi Tedbirler Alinmasi Hakkinda Kanun Hükmünde Kararname [Decree on Some Measures to Be Taken During the State of Emergency], KHK No. 692, RESMÎ GAZETE, No. 30124 (Mükerrer) [Duplicate] (July 14, 2017); Turkey Dismisses over 7,000 Police, Soldiers, Ministry Officials with New Emergency Decree, HÜRRIYET DAILY NEWS (July 15, 2017).)  As in the case of dismissals under previous decrees, those let go were persons deemed to have a link with terrorist organizations or with groups determined to have been acting against Turkey’s national security.  (Turkey Dismisses over 7,000 Police, Soldiers, Ministry Officials with New Emergency Decree, supra.)

The largest number of those dismissed, 2,303 individuals, were policemen. The lists also include 1,486 dismissals from the Interior Ministry, 789 from the Ministry of Health, 551 from the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), 546 from the Naval and Air Forces, 418 from the Ministry of Justice, 356 from the Higher Education Board, 102 from the Ministry of Education, and 45 from the Foreign Ministry.  (Id.)  Among the dismissed was former Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu.  (Id.)  Decree No. 692 also stripped the ranks and grades of 342 retired Turkish Armed Forces personnel and the sports medals of former footballers Hakan Sükür and Arif Erdem.  (Id.)

The July Decree Law only granted one previously shut-down institution the right to re-open and only re-instated one discharged student. (New Emergency Decree in Turkey Orders for More Dismissals, BİRGÜN DAİLY (last updated July 15, 2017).)

Germany: Nonprofits May Engage in Non-Partisan Politics Without Losing Tax-Exempt Status

Fri, 08/09/2017 - 14:30

(Sept. 8, 2017) In a decision published on August 9, 2017, the German Federal Financial Court (Bundesfinanzhof, BFH) held that nonprofit corporations may engage in non-partisan politics without losing their tax-exempt status. (Bundesfinanzhof [BFH] [Federal Financial Court], docket no. X R 13/15 (Aug. 9, 2017), BFH website in German).) The Court stated that a nonprofit corporation for the advancement of environmental protection is allowed to engage in general politics if it remains non-partisan, if the political engagement is limited to and necessary for the advancement of its public benefit purposes as set out in the statutes, and if its views are objective and factually substantiated. (Id. at 88.) If these requirements are fulfilled, the company can still be seen as “exclusively” serving the public interest for tax-privileged purposes.  The Court further held that this ruling especially applies to companies dedicated to environmental protection as in the case at hand, because most measures to protect the environment cannot be achieved by individuals but only by the legislature, so that political engagement is necessary to advance the public-benefit goals. (Id. at 85, 86, & 92.)

Relevant Law

The German Fiscal Code provides that companies that directly and exclusively serve public-benefit, charitable, or religious purposes qualify for tax-exempt status. A corporation serves public-benefit purposes “if its activity is dedicated to the altruistic advancement of the general public in material, spiritual, or moral respects.” (Abgabenordnung [AO] [Fiscal Code], Oct. 1, 2002, BUNDESGESETZBLATT [BGBl.] [FEDERAL LAW GAZETTE] I at 3866; 2003 I at 61, as amended, §§ 51-57, GERMAN LAWS ONLINE.) The beneficiaries cannot be limited to a closed circle of people, such as members of one family or employees of one corporation. (Id.)

Germany: Expanded Telecommunications Surveillance and Online Search Powers

Thu, 07/09/2017 - 20:30

(Sept. 7, 2017) On August 24, 2017, a controversial amendment to the German Criminal Code of Procedure entered into force in Germany that expanded the powers of law enforcement agencies to conduct online searches and source telecommunications surveillance (called a “State Trojan”). (Gesetz zur effektiveren und praxistauglicheren Ausgestaltung des Strafverfahrens [Act to Make Criminal Proceedings More Effective and Practicable], Aug. 17, 2017, BUNDESGESETZBLATT (BGBl.] [Federal Law Gazette] I at 3202, BGBl. website.) An “online search” is defined as gaining access with technical means to an information technology system used by the suspect without his or her knowledge in order to extract data. (Id. art. 3, no. 9, § 100b, ¶ 1.) Source telecommunications surveillance, as opposed to general telecommunications surveillance, enables law enforcement agencies to access data at the source prior to encryption. (Id. art. 3, no. 8, § 100a.)

In order to monitor and access data on the computer or a mobile device without the knowledge of the suspect, law enforcement exploits software vulnerabilities in the electronic device to install a Trojan software program (“State Trojan”). The amendment allows the use of State Trojans for helping to secure convictions for a broad catalogue of crimes, ranging from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, aggression, murder, and high treason to less serious offenses such as receiving and handling stolen goods, money laundering, incitement to submit a fraudulent asylum claim, and drug-related offenses. (Id.  art. 3, no. 9, § 100b, ¶ 2.)

Procedure

The use of State Trojans generally requires a court order. As an exception, in cases of imminent danger, it can be authorized by the prosecutor’s office, but that usage has to be confirmed by a court within three working days in order to remain effective. (Id. art. 3, no. 11, § 100e.)

Law Before the Amendment

Before the amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure, telecommunications surveillance was only possible via network providers. (The German Code of Criminal Procedure StPO, Apr. 7, 1987, BGBl. I at 1074, 1319, as amended, § 100b, ¶ 3, GERMAN LAWS ONLINE.) In addition, before the amendment, only the Federal Criminal Police Office was permitted to use State Trojans, in order to prevent international terrorism. (Bundeskriminalamtgesetz [Act on the Federal Criminal Police Office], July 7, 1997, BGBl. I at 1650, as amended, § 20k, GERMAN LAWS ONLINE.)

Criticism of the Amendment and Its Consideration in the Parliament

The way in which the provisions on online searches and source telecommunications surveillance were introduced in the parliament has been criticized. Members of the governing coalition parties introduced them as an amendment to an unrelated criminal procedure bill, raising questions of lack of transparency and the intention to avoid a public debate. (Press Release, PM 7/17: DAV gegen Einführung der Online-Durchsuchung und Quellen-TKÜ [Press Release 7/17: DAV [German Lawyers Association, a private voluntary organization, not the official bar association] Against Introduction of Online Searches and Source Telecommunication Surveillance] (June 19, 2017), DAV website.)

In addition, concerns have been voiced about the constitutionality of the new powers in light of the jurisprudence of the Federal Constitutional Court regarding online searches. The association “Digitalcourage,” which promotes fundamental rights and data protection, has announced in a press release that they will challenge the new law on constitutional grounds. (Press Release, Digitalcourage klagt gegen Staatstrojaner – “Sicherheitslücke in allen Geräten” [Digitalcourage Sues Against State Trojans – “Security Gap in All Devices”] (July 27, 2017), Digitalcourage website.)

According to the jurisprudence of the Federal Constitutional Court, an online search is only permissible if there is a “concrete danger to a predominantly important legal interest.  Predominantly important are the life, limb and freedom of the individual or such interests of the public a threat to which affects the basis or continued existence of the state or the basis of human existence.” (Bundesverfassungsgericht [BVerfG] [Federal Constitutional Court], Headnotes to the Judgment of the First Senate of 27 February 2008, docket no. 1 BvR 370/07, BVerfG website.) The association alleges that some of the crimes listed in the catalogue, such as drug-related offenses, do not rise to the level to justify the privacy intrusion. (Digitalcourage klagt gegen Staatstrojaner – “Sicherheitslücke in allen Geräten,” supra.)

United Kingdom: Data Protection Proposal Addresses “Right to be Forgotten”

Thu, 07/09/2017 - 17:30

(Sept. 7, 2017) The Government of the United Kingdom recently issued a statement of intent to introduce a new data protection bill that will serve to update and strengthen data protection laws. (Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport, A New Data Protection Bill: Our Planned Reforms, Statement of Intent (Aug. 7, 2017), GOV.UK.)  The current  provisions on data protection are contained in the Data Protection Act (DPA), which regulates the holding of personal data about individuals. (Data Protection Act 1998, c. 29, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.) The Act is broad and applies to obtaining, holding, using, or disclosing personal information. The DPA was enacted and implemented to meet the requirements of the European Union’s Data Protection Directive. (Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the Protection of Individuals with Regard to the Processing of Personal Data and on the Free Movement of Such Data, 1995 O.J. (L 281) 31, EUR-LEX.)

The 1998 Act is overseen by an Information Commissioner, who has stated that the aim of data protection legislation is to “strike a balance between the rights of individuals and the sometimes competing interests of those with legitimate reasons for using personal information.” (Your Legal Obligations, NATIONAL ARCHIVES (last visited Aug. 30, 2017).)

The statement of intent notes that under the proposals, individuals will have more control over what happens to their personal data and will have the right, with certain exceptions, to have personal data relating to them deleted. This right to erasure of personal data is known as the “right to be forgotten.” (A New Data Protection Bill: Our Planned Reforms, Statement of Intent, supra.)

Additional conditions will be imposed for which consent is required by businesses to collect personal information, and these must be provided in unambiguous language. Default, opt-out tick boxes will “become a thing of the past,” and withdrawing consent from providing information will be simplified.  (Id. at 8.)

Parental consent will be required in any case where information is required of a child under the age of 13 years old, and for those whose childhood and teenage years have been captured on social media, there will be a right to ask social medial platforms to delete this information.  (Press Release, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Government to Strengthen UK Data Protection Law (Aug. 7, 2017), GOV.UK.)

New provisions will also make it easier for individuals to move between service providers. For example, if an individual chooses to change providers, the new rules will enable any emails or file storage to be moved from one provider to the other. Individuals will also be able to request that a person review any decision made by automated processing. (A New Data Protection Bill: Our Planned Reforms, Statement of Intent, supra.)

The bill will introduce new criminal offenses in cases where an organization intentionally or recklessly creates a situation in which an individual can be identified from anonymized data; the crime will be punishable upon conviction with an unlimited fine. Altering records to prevent disclosure in a subject access request will also be an offense punishable with an unlimited fine. Civil sanctions available to the Information Commissioner will also be strengthened. The Commissioner will be able to impose higher civil fines on businesses that do not comply with the laws – up to £17 million (about US$21 million), or 4% of the global turnover, a significant increase from the maximum of £500,000 (about US$645,000) currently allowed. The Act will contain exemptions for whistleblowers and journalists. (Id. at 11.)

China: New Rules on Overseas Investment Released

Thu, 07/09/2017 - 14:30

(Sept. 7, 2017) On August 18, 2017, China’s State Council released a set of new rules directing Chinese companies’ overseas investment. According to the Opinions on Further Guiding and Regulating the Direction of Overseas Investment (Guiding Opinions), investments in the real estate, hotel, cinema, entertainment industry, and sports club sectors will be subject to government examination and approval.  The Guiding Opinions were jointly formulated by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Ministry of Commerce, the People’s Bank of China, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  (Guowuyuan Bangongting Zhuanfa Guojia Fazhan Gaige Wei, Shangwubu, Renmin Yinhang, Waijiao Bu Guanyu Jinyibu Zhidao he Guifan Jingwai Touzi Fangxiang Zhidao Yijian de Tongzhi (Aug. 4, 2017), State Council website; Opinions on Further Guiding and Regulating the Direction of Overseas Investments, Paul Weiss (last visited Sept. 5, 2017) (unofficial English translation).)

The Guiding Opinions divide overseas investment into three categories: encouraged, restricted, and banned. Among the restricted investments, three types will be subject to the pre-approval of government outbound-investment regulators: (1) investments in the above-mentioned sectors, in which Chinese companies are thought to have invested “irrationally” in the past (Guojia Fagaiwei Youguan Fuzeren Jiu “Guanyu Jinyibu Yindao he Guifan JIngwai Touzi Fangxiang de Zhidao Yijian” Da Jizhe Wen [NDRC Officials Concerned Respond to the Press Concerning “Opinions on Further Guiding and Regulating the Directions of Overseas Investment”], State Council website (Aug. 18, 2017)); (2) investments in countries or regions that have not established diplomatic relations with China, war areas, or sensitive countries or regions the investments in which are restricted by bilateral or multilateral treaties; and (3) establishment of overseas equity investment funds or investment platforms without underlying business operations.  (Guiding Opinions, § IV.)  Investments failing to meet the destination countries’ environmental protection, energy consumption, and safety standards are also in the restricted category of investment, but are not subject to the pre-approval.  (Id.)

In the encouraged category, investment in infrastructure projects relevant to the “One Belt, One Road” initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping is given priority. Overseas investments that may drive the export of domestic advantaged industrial capacity, high-quality equipment, or technical standards are encouraged.  Chinese companies are also encouraged to cooperate with foreign new and high technological and advanced manufacturing companies and to establish offshore research and development centers.  (Id. § III.)

Investments that endanger or may endanger the national interest or national security are prohibited. These include investment involving the export of core military technologies and products without government approval; investments using technologies, techniques, and products that are banned from export; and investments in gambling or sex sectors. (Id. § V.)

Laos: Special Citizenship Policy Being Considered

Wed, 06/09/2017 - 20:30

(Sept. 6, 2017) It was reported on July 21, 2017, that the Ministry of Justice of Laos has drafted legislation that would amend the Law on Lao Nationality to provide more favorable conditions for qualified foreign experts and other foreigners who seek Lao citizenship.  (Laos Considers Special Policy for Citizenship Granting, XINHUANET (July 21, 2017).)

Under the current Law on Lao Nationality (and also the amended draft of the Law), in general foreign nationals must have stayed in Laos legally for at least ten consecutive years before being permitted to apply for Lao nationality.  (Id.; Decree of the President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on the Promulgation of the Law on Lao Nationality, No. 35/PO (in force on June 15, 2004), arts. 7 & 14, VIENTIANE TIMES.)

The amended draft debated at an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet in mid-July considered a proposal that the period of required residence would be halved, to five years, “for foreign experts and foreigners who have played a good role in the Lao revolutionary task for national liberation and development process.”  (Laos Considers Special Policy for Citizenship Granting, supra.)

A Ministry of Justice official involved in the drafting process was quoted as saying that public opinion and the response of different sectors of society to the revised draft is being sought prior to submitting the draft law to the National Assembly in October for debate and approval.  (Id.)

Burma: Telecom Law Amended but Key Defamation Provision Remains Unchanged

Wed, 06/09/2017 - 17:30

(Sept. 6, 2017) On August 18, 2017, the parliament (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) of Burma (also called Myanmar) adopted minor amendments to the country’s 2013 Telecommunications Law.  (Akira Tomlinson, Myanmar Parliament Amends Speech-Restricting Telecommunications Law, PAPER CHASE (Aug. 20, 2017); The Telecommunications Law (Oct. 8, 2013), Ministry of Transport and Communications website.) The amended Law “permits judges to release people on bail, allows only those directly affected, or with permission from those directly affected, by the offense to press charges, and reduces the maximum prison sentence to two years” for a range of offenses under article 66, but leaves unaltered article 66(d), a highly controversial clause that restricts freedom of speech. (Shoon Naing & Yimou Lee, Myanmar Retains Tough Clause in Communications Law Despite Calls for Repeal, REUTERS (Aug. 18, 2017).)

Article 66(d) and Other Provisions on Violations of the Law

The penalty provisions of the Law are articles 65 to 73; the controversial article 66(d) bans the “[e]xtorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or [threat] to any person by using any Telecommunications Network.”  (The Telecommunications Law, art. 66(d).)  Other offenses listed under article 66 include:

(a) Accessing and disturbing a Telecommunications Network, altering or destroying the determination of technical standards or the original form without the permission of the owner or a person who has the administrative right.

(b) Releasing a virus or using any other means with an intention to cause damage to the Telecommunications Network.

(c) Stealing, cheating, misappropriating or mischief of any money and property by using any Telecommunications Network.  (Id. art. 66.)

Formerly, the maximum prison term that might be applied upon conviction for these offenses was three years, but now it is two, as was noted above; a fine, or both imprisonment and fine, may also be imposed. (Id.; Naing & Lee, supra.)

According to the free speech advocacy organization Article 19, in addition to article 66(d), articles 40, 76, and 77 of the Telecommunications Law, “which provide powers of warrantless entry and emergency interception under broad circumstances not subject to prior judicial review,” are also “onerous provisions which have been used to severely limit freedom of expression and freedom of the media.” (Myanmar: Telecommunications Law, ARTICLE 19 (Mar. 9, 2017).) As a result, Article 19, contends, “the courts or other independent authorities are prevented from reviewing surveillance of, or access to, subscriber information and communications.”  (Id.)

Reportedly, some 41 cases related to 66(d) offenses were before the courts as of December 2016, and since the installation last year of the government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) party of pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, there have been 17 journalists charged or arrested under the Law. (Hein Ko Soe & Kean, supra; Naing & Lee, supra.)  The 2013 Telecommunications Research Group, moreover, which documents prosecutions under article 66(d), has indicated that at least 71 people are known to have been charged for online defamation under the law.  (Burma: Repeal Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law, Human Rights Watch website (June 29, 2017).)

Views of Article 66(d)

Activist poet Maung Saung Kha, part of a group that has protested against article 66(d), was sentenced in May 2016 to six months’ imprisonment for posting a poem on Facebook deemed to defame the president; he was released due to time served. (Hein Ko Soe & Thomas Kean, 66(d): The Defamation Menace, FRONTIER (Jan. 13, 2017).) In a joint statement issued in June 2017, 61 human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, called for repeal of the clause, noting, “[i]n the last two years, this law has opened the door to a wave of criminal prosecutions of individuals for peaceful communications on Facebook and has increasingly been used to stifle criticism of the authorities.” (Burma: Repeal Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law, supra.)

Nevertheless, some members of the NLD, which has a majority in both houses of the parliament, have defended the Law as it stands. They argue that it helps restrain hate speech and false news, given the dramatic rise in the use of social media in the country since government reforms were instituted in 2011.  (Naing & Lee, supra.)  Moreover, according to senior NLD member Han Tha Myint, a “majority of parliamentarians” were glad of the protection the Law provides against online criticism.  He stated, “I don’t mean they’ll sue everybody who criticizes them, but they like this [clause 66(d)].”  (Id.)

Japan: Chemical Substances Control Law Amended

Wed, 06/09/2017 - 14:30

(Sept. 6, 2017) Japan’s Chemical Substances Control Law (CSCL) aims to prevent environmental pollution caused by chemical substances that pose a risk to human health and interfere with the habitat and healthy development of flora and fauna.  (Act on the Evaluation of Chemical Substances and Regulation of Their Manufacture etc., Act No. 117 of 1973, art. 1 (provisional translation, for version in effect as of Apr. 1, 2011), Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) website.)  The CSCL regulates chemicals that are not regulated by other laws such as the Poisonous and Deleterious Substitute Control Law and Pharmaceutical Affairs Law.  The CSCL was recently amended and the amendment was promulgated on June 7, 2017.  (KANPO [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] (June 7, 2017), No. 7034, at 2,  KANPO website.)

The CSCL requires prior risk assessment of new chemicals before they can be manufactured or imported. (CSCL, art. 4.)  Currently, if the quantities of new chemicals to be manufactured or imported are below an amount set by Cabinet order and the chemicals are not harmful based on available knowledge, they will be exempted from all or part of the risk assessment process. (Id. art. 5 ¶ 5.)  The amended law changes the calculation of the maximum permissible quantities.  The new measurement of quantity will be based on the level of harmful emissions released by the chemicals into the environment, not on the manufacturing or import of chemicals.  (Id. new art. 5 ¶ 5.)  This increases the upper limit of the quantities of certain new chemicals that can be manufactured or imported without full assessment.  (Summary of the Bill to Amend a Part of the CSCL, METI website (last visited Aug. 31, 2017) (in Japanese).)

Chemicals are currently classified into the following categories based on their level of persistency, bio-accumulativeness, and toxicity upon continuous exposure to the environment.  (CSCL, art. 2.)

  • Class I Specified Chemicals are persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic after continuous exposure;
  • Class II Specified Chemicals are accumulated or will be accumulated to some extent in the environment and are toxic after continuous exposure;
  • Monitored? Chemicals are persistent and bio-accumulative, but whose toxicity after continuous exposure is unknown;
  • Priority Assessment Chemicals are accumulated or will be accumulated to some extent in the environment, but whose toxic after continuous exposure is unknown; and
  • General Chemicals.

The amendment adds a new category of chemicals, “Specified General Chemicals,” that are toxic after continuous exposure to the environment, to the above list.  (Id. art. 2 new ¶ 8.)

The government takes measures to control risks associated with a chemical after it is on the market. General Chemicals are the ones least regulated under the CSCL.  The amended CSCL adds the following management measures to be applied to Specified General Chemicals:

  • the government will send a notification of the risk assessment to businesses that report holding them (id. art. 4 ¶ 4);
  • the government will make public the results of assessments of the chemicals (id. art. 4 ¶ 6);
  • the competent ministries will instruct and give advice to the businesses under their jurisdiction (id. art. 39); and
  • the businesses dealing with such chemicals are obligated to expend effort inproviding information on the chemicals to their clients (id. art. 8-2).

Czech Republic: Draft Law on Putting Rights of Gun Owners in Constitution

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 20:30

(Sept. 5, 2017) On June 28, 2017, the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech Parliament, passed a draft amendment to the Constitution that would place the right to own guns in the Constitution.  (Jacob Bojesson, Czech Republic Plans to Combat Terrorism by Arming Its Citizens, DAILY CALLER (June 29, 2017).)  According to the draft, “[t]his constitutional bill is in reaction to the recent increase of security threats, especially the danger of violent acts such as isolated terrorist  attacks … active attackers or other violent hybrid threats.”  (Id.)

According to the Czech Senate chairman Milan Stech, the Senate will not discuss the draft law before the October parliamentary elections.  (Zbranovou ustavni novelu asi Senat do snemovnich voleb neprojedna [The Constitutional Amendment on Firearms Will Not Be Discussed by the Senate by the Parliamentary Elections], CESKE NOVINY (Aug. 23, 2017).)

Background

The Czech Constitution currently states, “[s]tate bodies, bodies of self-governing territorial units, and natural and legal persons are obliged to participate in safeguarding the Czech Republic’s security.  The extent of this obligation, as well as further details, shall be provided for by statute.”  (Czech Republic’s Constitution of 1993 with Amendments Through 2013, Appendix B: Constitutional Act of 22 April 1998 No. 110/1998 Sb., on the Security of the Czech Republic, art. 3(2), CONSTITUTE PROJECT; Eugene Volokh, Czech Parliament’s Lower House Passes Right of Citizens to Keep and Bear Arms ‘to Participate in the Security of the Czech Republic,’ WASHINGTON POST (June 29, 2017).)  The proposed revision would add the new provision:

(3) Citizens of the Czech Republic have the right to acquire, hold, and carry weapons and ammunition for the fulfillment of the tasks mentioned in paragraph 2. This right may be restricted by law, and other conditions for its exercise may be laid down by law if necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, of public order and security, of life and health, or for the prevention of crime.  (Volokh, supra; Snemovni tisk 1021/0, cast c. 1/4, Novela ustav. z. o bezpecnosti Ceske republiky [House Print 1021/0, Part No. 1/4, Amendment on the Security of the Czech Republic], Chamber of Deputies Parliament of the Czech Republic website (click on Cely snemovni tisk to view pdf document).)

The draft legislation was supported by 139 of the 200 members of the House of Representatives and must be endorsed by the Senate before Czech President Milos Zeman can sign it into law.  (Bojesson, supra; Robert Muller, Czech Lower House Backs Putting Gun Rights in Constitution, REUTERS (June 28, 2017).)  The President, who had previously supported more gun restrictions in the country, is said to have “had a change of heart” following the series of terror attacks throughout Europe.  (Id.)  According to the Constitution, “[t]he concurrence of three-fifths of all Deputies and three-fifths of all Senators present is required for the adoption of [a] constitutional act … .  (Czech Republic’s Constitution of 1993 with Amendments Through 2013, art. 39(4).)

In the Czech Republic, which reportedly has about 800,000 legally held weapons in a population of over ten million, citizens are permitted to own guns, including semi-automatics, “if they have no criminal record, are deemed a ‘reliable character,’ are in good health and have passed theoretical and practical firearms tests.”  (Matthew Day, Czech Republic Fights EU over Plans to Tighten Gun Ownership Laws, TELEGRAPH (Aug. 10, 2017); Act on Firearms and Ammunition, as Amended, No. 119/2002 (as last amended by Act No. 167/2012 Coll.), Ministry of the Interior website (click on pdf and doc links below “Act on Firearms (in force from 1st July 2014)”.)

The EU Directive on Firearms

In December 2016, European Union parliamentary and Council negotiators reached provisional agreement on amending the Firearms Directive; on March 14, 2017, the EU parliament endorsed the proposed changes to tighten gun laws in response to a growing terrorist threat.  (Press Release, Parliament Approves Revised EU Gun Law to Close Security Loopholes (Mar. 14, 2017), European Parliament website; Bojesson, supra; Directive (EU) 2017/853 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2017 Amending Council Directive 91/477/EEC on Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Weapons, 2017 O.J. (L137) 22, EUR-LEX.)

With a view to making it harder for terrorists to gain access to weapons, the amended Directive imposes tighter controls on blank-firing (“acoustic”) firearms and inadequately deactivated weapons, like those used in the 2015 Charlie Hebdo Paris terror attacks, by strengthening marking rules and requiring that deactivated guns be declared to national authorities; it also obliges EU Member States to have an appropriate monitoring system in place for the issuance or renewal of licenses and exchange of information.  (Parliament Approves Revised EU Gun Law to Close Security Loopholes, supra.)  In addition, the Directive tightens restrictions on ownership of semi-automatic weapons.  (Id.; Day, supra.)

Czech Republic and the EU Directive

The Czech Republic opposed the changes and took action by putting forward the constitutional bill.  In addition, on August 4, 2017, the country filed a lawsuit against the EU in the European Court of Justice in regard to the tightening of controls over gun ownership.  (Day, supra.)  Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec declared in a statement, “[s]uch a massive punishment of decent arms holders is unacceptable, because banning legally-held weapons has no connection with the fight against terrorism.”  He further termed the action “a nonsensical decision once again undermining people’s trust in the EU” and added that “implementing the directive could also have a negative impact on the internal security of the Czech Republic, because a large number of weapons could move to the black market.”  (Id.)  The government further claims that “many of the directive’s provisions are vague and unclear.”  (Id.; see also Czech Lower House Approves Gun Rights Constitutional Amendment, NRA-ILA (June 30, 2017).)

Reactions

The fate of the amendment is uncertain in the Senate, with some of the senators demanding its rejection; Stech said that the Senate is divided roughly in two among those in favor of and those opposed to the revision.  (Zbranovou ustavni novelu asi Senat do snemovnich voleb neprojedna, supra.)  He further commented that the Senate Constitutional and Legal Committee and the Defense and Security Committee had postponed consideration of the amendment and that its approval should also be preceded by a public hearing.  (Id.)

Critics of the amendment argue that any changes adopted will “never take effect” because EU directives overrule the proposed legislative amendment.  (Bojesson, supra.)  “Putting it in the constitution is therefore nonsense,” Member of Parliament Jan Farsky reportedly told Hospodarske Noviny (a Czech economic newspaper).  (Id.)

Thailand: Land, Building Tax Draft Considered

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 17:30

(Sept. 5, 2017) Thailand is considering changes to its land and buildings tax, including a provision to allow local authorities in the future to appraise property values. The current system in which sometimes rental income is used to determine tax liability will be ended.  A draft bill on the subject, prepared by the Council of State, was previously approved in principle by the National Legislative Assembly on March 31, 2017.  Consideration of the draft legislation by the Assembly was expected to continue for several months.  (New Property Tax Regime Within Sight: What Should We Expect?, Baker McKenzie website (May 4, 2017).)

While currently the tax rate is a set, uniform percentage, the draft legislation envisions more differentiation. The proposed rates are:

  • Land for agricultural use: the theoretical ceiling rate would be 0.2% of assessed value, with all land valued at under 50 million baht (about US$1.5 million) exempt from taxes and the actual rate 0.05% of value for land assessed at a higher level.
  • Land and buildings for residential use: the ceiling rate would be 0.5%, with an owner-occupied house exempt if valued at less than 50 million baht and taxed at 0.05% if assessed at over that value. Second and other homes valued under 50 million baht are taxed at 0.03%; more valuable properties in this category are at 0.05%.
  • Land for other commercial uses: the ceiling is 2%, with the actual rate currently varying between and 0.03% and 1.5%.
  • Vacant or otherwise unused land: the ceiling is 5%, with the rate starting at 2% and increasing every three years by 0.05% until it reaches the ceiling rate. (Id.)

Valuations of buildings and condominiums will also be undertaken, with a nationwide rate of value per square meter set at 7,200 to 7,800 baht (about US$217-235)  for buildings.  In a change from previous practice, the nature of building materials will not be considered in establishing current value.  There will, however, be a depreciation allowance based on the nature of the material; the value of a concrete house will be depreciated to 24% of the original after 40 years.  For wooden houses, the same devaluation rate as allowed for concrete dwellings will be permitted over 18 years.  (Id.)  Hotels will be valued at 8,900 baht (about US$268) per square meter, with shopping malls appraised at 9,350 baht (about US$281) per square meter.  (Kanana Katharangsiporn, Thailand: New Tax Worries Private Players, BANGKOK POST (Aug. 30, 2017), https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/news/1315367/new-tax-worries-private-players.)

Reactions to the Proposed Law

Private sector observer such as the Thai Chamber of Commerce, have raised concerns about the draft legislation, worrying that local authorities will have inconsistent standards that result in uneven treatment of tax payers. In addition, there is the question of whether local governments have sufficient staff to carry out tax evaluations and collections.  One issue that may be difficult to resolve is how to establish the value of vacant lands that could be used for agriculture by the owners or by farmers to whom they rent.  (Id.)

According to Wilawan Veerakun, Director of the Bureau of Property Valuation of the Thai Treasury Department, the Bureau will complete an appraisal of land plots throughout the country before the projected entry into effect of the new law in January 2018.  She stated that there should be no concern about a rise in appraisal prices because “the new appraisal prices will still be lower than market prices. …  Prices were appraised by referring to transactions people made.”  (Id.)  Veerakun added that training in assessing value has been given to staff members of local administrations that have more than 1,700 employees.  (Id.)

Atip Bijanonda, the director of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and president of the Housing Business Association, suggested that the “government should make the law simple and easy and acceptable among taxpayers.” (Id.)

Current Land Tax  

Thailand at present has a house and land tax of 12.5% of assessed rental income or of assessed value, whichever is higher, with an exemption for owner-occupied houses. Local governments in some cases also impose a development tax ranging from 0.25% to 0.5% of the assessed value of land.  Owner-occupied houses are exempt from this tax as well.  (Thailand: Country Survey, § 5.2 “Real Estate Tax,” IBFD TAX RESEARCH PLATFORM online subscription database (last visited Aug. 30, 2017); Thai Property Taxes: Building and Land Tax, THAILAND LAW ONLINE (last visited Aug. 30, 2017).) These taxes are imposed under the Household and Land Tax Act B.E. 2475 (1932) and the Local Land Development Tax Act B.E. 2508 (1965). (New Property Tax Regime Within Sight: What Should We Expect?, supra.)

Russia: New Legislation Restricts Anonymity of Internet Users

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 14:40

(Sept. 5, 2017) On July 29, 2017, the President of the Russian Federation signed two recently adopted federal laws that prohibit the anonymous use of online messenger applications and detail the procedure for blocking access to websites recognized by the Russian authorities as prohibited. (Law on Information and Information Technologies Has Been Amended, KREMLIN.RU (official website of the Russian Federation President) (July 31, 2017) (in Russian).)   Both acts amend the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection (FLIITIP).  (Federal Law No. 149 FZ of July 27, 2006, CONSULTANT.RU (in Russian).)

Law No. 276-FZ Amending the FLIITIP

The first new act, Federal Law No. 276-FZ of July 29, 2017, on Amendments to the FLIITIP, prohibits owners of information and telecommunications networks and information resources (websites, website pages, information systems, and programs for computers and electronic equipment) to provide access to websites and information resources that are designated as “resources with restricted access” by the Federal Service for Supervision in the Field of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor).  The Law requires Roskomnadzor to create a national information database of online resources and services to which access is prohibited in Russia.  Internet service providers (ISPs) will be required to identify those owners of resources who do not block access to prohibited online resources and report them to the Roskomnadzor within three days.  Operators of online search engines are required to block links to websites included in the database of prohibited online resources.  If the owner of the network or information resource continues to ignore the requirement to block access to restricted websites, its Internet connection can be terminated by the ISP within 24 hours.  The Law will go into effect on November 1, 2017.  (Federal Law No. 276-FZ of July 29, 2017, on Amendments to the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection, ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA (July 30, 2017) (official publication, in Russian).)

According to a Forbes report,  the amendments mean that there will be a total ban on the use of Internet proxy servers, including virtual protection networks (VPNs), which have often been used to access websites blocked by the government authorities or to see other online content not approved by the state.  (Janet Burns, Russian Laws Will Ban VPNs and Force Chat Users to Register, Giving Censors an Edge, Forbes (July 30, 2017).)

Law No. 241-FZ Amending Articles 10 (1)1 and 15 (4)4 of the FLIITIP 

The second new act, Federal Law No. 241-FZ of July 29, 2017 on Amendments to Articles 10 (1)1 and 15 (4)4 of the FLIITIP, prevents the anonymous use of instant messaging online. According to this Law, ISPs can serve only those users who can be identified by their subscriber number, based on the identification agreement concluded between the service provider and the communications operator. Also, ISPs are required to restrict the user’s access to the application within a day if they suspect that messages contain information that violates Russian legislation. ISPs that fail to meet this requirement will be blocked by the authorities. The Law will come into force on January 1, 2018. (Federal Law No. 241-FZ of July 29, 2017 on Amendments to Articles 10(1) and 15(4) of the Federal Law on Information, Information Technology and Information Protection, Internet-Portal of Legal Information (July 30, 2017) (official publication, in Russian).)

Related Developments

Reportedly, the Roskomnadzor is drafting a regulation that would establish the registration of owners and operators of information networks and search engines.  Only registered owners and operators would have access to the  database of prohibited resources.  Owners of search engines, VPNs, and proxy servers would receive daily information on resources added to the list of banned content and would be required to block access to such resources within one day.  (Roskomnadzor Explained How VPNs Will Receive Information on Prohibited Websites, NEWSRU.COM (Aug. 25, 2017) (in Russian).)

Views on Russian Restrictions on Internet Access

Russian authorities have repeatedly stated that Internet restrictions are needed to prevent “the spread of extremist content online.” (Burns, supra.)  According to the Chairman of the State Duma’s Information Policy Committee, Leonid Levin, the government is seeking not “to impose restrictions on law-abiding citizens but [only] to block access to ‘unlawful content.’”  (Id.)  However, human rights advocates are concerned that “these laws negatively affect the ability of the Russians to freely access and exchange information online.” (Russia: New Legislation Attacks Internet Anonymity; Repeal Laws Threatening Freedom of Expression Online, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (Aug. 1, 2017).)

According to a 2017 Human Rights Watch report, recently Russian authorities have unjustifiably blocked thousands of websites and prosecuted Internet users for expressing their views on such “sensitive” topics as LGBT issues, Russia’s intervention in Syria, and the armed conflict in Ukraine. (Online and on All Fronts: Russia’s Assault on Freedom of Expression, Human Rights Watch (July 18, 2017).)

This item was written with the assistance of Foreign Law Consultant Olena Yatsunska.

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