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A Global Judicial News Report: December 2022

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Judicature International | An online-only publication

Afghanistan 🇦🇫

Afghanistan’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, issued an order directing judges to fully enforce sharia law. A Taliban spokesperson tweeted that Akhundzada ordered judges to implement hudud and qisas — aspects of Islamic law that include public executions, stonings, floggings, and the amputation of limbs for thieves. “If they really start to implement hudud and qisas, they will be aiming to create the fear that society has gradually lost,” said Rahima Popalzai, a legal and political analyst. (TheGuardian.com)

A pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court also issued a decision on October 31 authorizing the prosecution to resume the investigation into alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan since May 1, 2003. The Chamber’s decision comes after an investigation of Afghanistan’s efforts to “carry out genuine investigations” determined that “[t]he limited number of cases and individuals prosecuted by Afghanistan . . . cannot lead to a finding that the ICC investigation must be deferred.” In 2020, the U.S. imposed sanctions on ICC staff after the prosecutor’s office said its Afghanistan investigation would examine actions by U.S. personnel. The Biden Administration lifted these sanctions in 2021. (Jurist.org)

Separately, Judicature International‘s publisher, the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law, announced the 2023 Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law would be awarded to the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) for their efforts to evacuate, shelter, and support Afghan women judges who faced immediate danger with the Taliban took control in 2021. (judicialstudies.duke.edu)

China 🇨🇳

A landmark decision issued by the European Court of Human Rights could block future extraditions from Europe to China. In their unanimous decision, the ECHR blocked the extradition of a Taiwanese citizen from Poland to China, citing the prospect of ill-treatment or torture and lack of access to a fair trial in China. Marcin Gorski, a legal scholar at the University of Lodz, explained it is notable that the defendant “is neither a political activist nor a critic of China.” Accordingly, Gorski believes the decision means that going forward, “regardless of your personal status . . . you must not be extradited [from Europe] to China” because of the likelihood of ill-treatment. (VOAnews.com)

Hungary 🇭🇺

Hungarian state media have attacked two judges who met with the U.S. ambassador in Budapest in early November. The U.S. embassy issued a statement defending the meeting. A joint statement from the National Judicial Council and the Hungarian Association of Judges said the media attacks create “an atmosphere of fear among judges.” The Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán has been criticized for repeatedly pressuring the Hungarian judiciary and threatening its independence. In the recent rule of law rankings issued by the World Justice Project, Hungary fell to 73rd among the 140 countries included in the rankings. (TheGuardian.com)

Israel 🇮🇱

Dahlia Scheindlin, a political scientist who studies Israeli democracy, published an op-ed calling attention to a controversial judicial reform proposal released by the Religious Zionism party in October. Scheindlin argues that the proposed “Law and Justice Plan” is both radical and far-reaching. The plan would remove the laws that Benjamin Netanyahu has been charged with violating, grant the political branches greater control over judicial nominations, and subdue judicial review. Following elections earlier in the month, Netanyahu’s Likud Party secured a firm majority in the Knesset. Netanyahu is expected to partner with Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of the Religious Zionism party, to form a majority coalition. (NYTimes.com)

Netherlands 🇳🇱

A Dutch court convicted three men for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014. The fourth suspect was acquitted. The trial lasted more than two years and tried the four men in absentia. The three men convicted and sentenced to life in prison are tied to the Russian security services and are believed to be in Russia or Russian-controlled territory. Russia has maintained that it is not responsible for the MH-17 tragedy. The court was unpersuaded by Russia’s defense and said the alternative scenarios Russia presented “belonged to the ‘realm of fantasy.’” (NYTimes.com)

Poland 🇵🇱

The European Union has withheld $35 billion in COVID stimulus payments after Poland’s right-wing government refused to reverse changes that have eroded the judiciary’s independence. Until five years ago, members of the judiciary selected Polish judges. This process changed when the ruling Law and Justice Party enacted a law that enabled ruling party politicians to select judges. The withheld funds are roughly equivalent to 15% of Poland’s GDP. If Poland refuses to reverse the law, the EU has threatened to withhold an additional $75 billion in cohesion funds. (NPR.org)

Sweden 🇸🇪

The Swedish Supreme Court ruled that the trial of Alex Schneiter, a Swiss oil CEO, could proceed in Swedish courts. Sweden charged Schneiter with aiding and abetting war crimes after the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan published a report accusing Schneiter’s company, Lundin Oil, of sparking the civil war that raged in Sudan from 1999 to 2003. The Supreme Court held that Swedish courts have “universal jurisdiction” over Schneiter’s alleged crimes and ruled that “[t]he fact that the defendant is not in Sweden does not constitute an obstacle to Swedish jurisdiction.” (Jurist.org)

United Kingdom 🇬🇧

The Law Society, an independent professional body of U.K. solicitors, released a study finding that Black judges will continue to be under-represented in the ranks of the British judiciary until 2149. Currently, Black judges account for 1.09% of the U.K bench. Given the current rate of progress in bringing greater diversity to the judiciary, it will be over a century until judicial diversity more accurately reflects the U.K. population. The Law Society report comes shortly after a University of Manchester survey revealed that more than half of the legal professionals surveyed reported witnessing a judge show racial bias in proceedings. (TheGuardian.com)

United States 🇺🇸

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced the launch of a free public database containing federal judges’ financial disclosure reports. The Financial Disclosure Committee of the Judicial Conference has discussed granting access to these disclosures for several years. However, the committee would not release the information until the safety of judges and their families could be guaranteed. This public database is designed to increase transparency and boost the public’s confidence in the courts. Judges’ finances have been in the spotlight since April 2022, when a Wall Street Journal investigation of over 130 federal judges uncovered troubling conflicts of interest and illegality. (USCourts.gov)

The December 2022 Global Judicial News Report was compiled and written by Grady S. MacPhee, J.D., LL.M. candidate at Duke University School of Law.