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The Global Legal Monitor is an online publication from the Law Library of Congress covering legal news and developments worldwide. It is updated frequently and draws on information from official national legal publications and reliable press sources. You can find previous news by searching the Global Legal Monitor.

Egypt: People’s Assembly Passes NGO Law with Two-Thirds Majority

(Dec. 2, 2016) On November 29, 2016, Egypt’s People’s Assembly approved a bill on regulating the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the country. The new law was drafted by Abdel Hady Al-Kasby, the head of the parliament’s Social Solidarity Committee. The law passed by a two-thirds majority of the members’ votes. After the approval by the People’s Assembly, the new law will be sent to the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, for signature. It will be enforced after its publication in the Official Gazette. (Gamal Essem El-Din, Egypt Parliament Finally Approves New NGOs Law, AHRAM ONLINE (Nov. 29, 2016).)

The bill faced criticism by members of civil society, human rights activists, some political parties, and some legal scholars. Individuals opposing the law argue that the government should have discussed its provisions with members of civil society. (Amira El-Fekki, Parliament’s First Drafted Legislation on NGOs Heavily Criticised, DAILY NEWS EGYPT (Nov. 30, 2016).)

According to news reports, the law will affect the work of 47,000 local NGOs and 100 foreign NGOs operating in Egypt. (Sarah El-Sheikh, Parliament Passes NGO Law with Two-Thirds Majority, DAILY NEWS EGYPT (Nov. 29, 2016); for background, see George Sadek, Egypt: Parliament Provisionally Approves Legislation Regulating NGOs, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Nov. 22, 2016).)

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South Korea: President May Be Impeached

(Dec. 2, 2016) An impeachment motion against South Korean President Park Geun-hye has now been delayed and it is not certain whether it will be brought against her in, and passed by, the National Assembly. (Yoon-seung Kang, Impeachment Motion Delayed as Oppositions Fail to Narrow Gap, YONHAP NEWS (Dec. 1, 2016); for background on the controversy that may lead to impeachment, see Sayuri Umeda, South Korea: Scandal Raises Questions About the Future of the President, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Nov. 23, 2016).)

If a motion is passed, the prosecuting commissioner, the Chairperson of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly, through the presentation of an authentic copy of the impeachment resolution, will request that the Constitutional Court adjudicate on the impeachment. (Constitutional Court Act, Act No. 4017, Aug. 5, 1988, amended by Act No. 12897, Dec. 30, 2014, art. 49, STATUTES OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA.) Once a motion of impeachment is passed, the president cannot exercise power as the president until the Constitutional Court adjudicates the case. (Id. art. 50 & Constitution of the Republic of Korea, Oct. 29, 1987, art. 65 ¶ 3, STATUTES OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA.)

The Constitutional Court will examine whether Park has violated the Constitution or other Acts in the performance of official duties. (Constitutional Court Act, art. 65 & Constitution of the Republic of Korea, art. 48.) The Constitutional Court must pronounce the final decision within 180 days after it receives any case for adjudication, including impeachment cases. (Constitutional Court Act, art. 38.)

In cases in which criminal procedures are under way on the same grounds as those used for a request for impeachment against the respondent, the full bench of nine Justices may suspend the proceedings of adjudication of the impeachment case. (Id. art. 51.) In Park’s case, special prosecutors were appointed to investigate the matter. (South Korea’s Park Names Prosecutor to Probe Corruption Scandal, REUTERS (Nov. 30, 2016); Umeda, supra.) Therefore, the provision on suspension may be applicable.

Where a request for an impeachment is well-founded, the Constitutional Court must pronounce a decision to remove the respondent from the public office. (Constitutional Court Act, art. 53 ¶ 1.) The concurrence of six or more Justices is required for impeachment. (Id. art. 23 ¶ 2, item 1; Constitution of the Republic of Korea, art. 113.) A decision of impeachment does not exempt the respondent from civil or criminal liability. A person who is removed by decision of impeachment cannot be a public official again unless five years have passed since the decision was pronounced. (Constitutional Court Act, art. 54.) If the respondent has already left office before the pronouncement of the decision, the case is dismissed.  (Id. art. 53 ¶ 2.) Therefore, if Park resigns, the impeachment procedure will be terminated.

After the president is removed from office by impeachment, a successor must be elected within 60 days. (Constitution of the Republic of Korea, art. 68 ¶ 2.)

There is a precedent for impeachment of a president in Korea. In March 2004, the National Assembly passed a motion to impeach then-president Roh Moo-hyun. Two months later, the Constitutional Court dismissed the impeachment. (Youngjae Lee, Law, Politics, and Impeachment: The Impeachment of Roh Moo-hyun from a Comparative Constitutional Perspective, 53:2 AM. J. COMP. L. 403 (Spring 2005).)

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Cambodia: Life Sentences of Khmer Rouge Officials Upheld

(Dec. 1, 2016) On November 23, 2016, the Supreme Court Chamber (SCC) of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a special Cambodian human rights court, upheld on appeal the life sentences of two senior Khmer Rouge officials, Nuon Chea, former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan, former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea. However, the Chamber reversed in part and upheld in part the convictions on which the sentences were based. (Press Release, Supreme Court Chamber Quashes Part of the Convictions, Affirms Life Imprisonment for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in Case 002/01, ECCC website (Nov. 23, 2016); Alexis Wheeler, Cambodia Court Upholds Life Sentences of Khmer Rouge Officials, PAPER CHASE (Nov. 23, 2016); Appeal Judgement, Case File/Dossier No 002/19-09-2007-ECCC/SC, ECCC website (Nov. 23, 2016).) Nuon Chea, 90, and Khieu Samphan, 85, were the first high-level leaders of the former Democratic Kampuchea regime, which was responsible for the deaths between 1975 and 1979 of an estimated  two million Cambodians. (Cambodian Court Upholds Life Sentences for Khmer Rouge Leaders, GUARDIAN (Nov. 23, 2016.)

Reportedly, “[t]he number of allegations against Chea and Khieu Samphan – and the complexity of their cases – was so vast that the court split their trials into a series of smaller hearings in 2011, fearful the pair might die before justice could be served.” (Cambodian Court Upholds Life Sentences for Khmer Rouge Leaders, supra.) The pair was convicted in August 2014 after “a two-year trial focused on the forced evacuation of around two million Cambodians from Phnom Penh into rural labour camps and the murders of hundreds of enemy soldiers at one of several execution sites.” (Id.) The men had been indicted on September 15, 2010. (Case 002/01, ECCC website (last visited Nov. 23, 2016).)

The appeal to the SCC was against the trial judgment in Case 002/01, which had convicted the two former communist leaders of the crimes against humanity “of murder, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts in relation to the evacuation of Phnom Penh immediately after the fall of the city” on April 17, 1975. (Press Release, supra.) The SCC affirmed the accused’s conviction for the crime against humanity of “other inhumane acts” in connection with “the second phase of population transfers that occurred between 1975 and 1977,” when civilians were evacuated from cities by force and placed in rural labor camps, where they died from torture, starvation, and execution, and the SCC also “entered a conviction for the crime against humanity of murder.” (Id.; Wheeler, supra.)

The SCC reversed, among other convictions, the Trial Chamber convictions “for the crime against humanity of extermination in relation to the evacuation of Phnom Penh and the second phase of population transfers” and for “the crime against humanity of persecution on political grounds,” finding that the evidence submitted in connection with the former crime “did not establish beyond reasonable doubt the requisite killings on a large scale committed with direct intent” and that the evidence submitted in connection with the latter crime had not established that the transfers were discriminatory. (Press Release, supra.)

Although the SCC had found errors in certain conclusions reached by the Trial Chamber and considered whether it should therefore revise the life sentences the lower chamber imposed, it determined:

Given that the gravity of the crimes should be reflected in the sentence, in view of the massive scale of the crimes; the complete lack of consideration for the ultimate fate of the Cambodian population, especially the most vulnerable groups; the fact that the crimes were not isolated events, but occurred over an extended period of time; and the significant roles of the Accused, the Supreme Court Chamber concluded that the imposition of a life sentence for each of the Accused was appropriate and therefore confirmed the sentence imposed by the Trial Chamber. (Id.)

Crimes against humanity in connection with the offenses in Cambodia are defined in article 5 of the law that established the ECCC. (Law on the Establishment of Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (2001, as amended on Oct. 27, 2004 by NS/RKM/1004/006), ECCC website (unofficial English translation as revised Aug. 26, 2007).)

The ECCC and Its Chambers

The ECCC is a special Cambodian court, often called the Khmer Rouge Tribunal or the Cambodia Tribunal, set up in 2006 pursuant to a 2003 agreement between Cambodia and the United Nations to prosecute high-level Khmer Rouge leaders and funded by international assistance provided by the U.N. Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT). (Introduction to the ECCC, ECCC website (last visited Nov. 28, 2016); Cambodian Court Upholds Life Sentences for Khmer Rouge Leaders, supra; see also Constance Johnson, Cambodia; United Nations: Indictment for Crimes Against Humanity, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Mar. 31, 2015).)

The ECCC only has the authority “to prosecute two categories of alleged perpetrators for alleged crimes committed between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979: senior leaders of the former Democratic Kampuchea and individuals deemed “to be most responsible for grave violations of national and international law.” (Introduction to the ECCC, supra.)  The ECCC is handling four cases: “Case 001:  Defendant: Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch; Case 002: Defendants: Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary (deceased), Nuon Chea, Ieng Thirith (currently under judicial supervision after having been found unfit to stand trial); Case 003: Defendant: Meas Muth; Case 004: Defendants: Im Chaem, Yim Tith, Ao An.” (Id.; Johnson, supra.)

The judicial chambers of the ECCC consist of a Pre-Trial Chamber, a Trial Chamber, and the SCC, with the first two chambers comprising three Cambodian and two international judges and the SCC comprising four Cambodian and three international judges. SCC decisions require an affirmative vote of at least five out of the seven judges. (Judicial Chambers, ECCC website (last visited Nov. 28, 2016).)

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Switzerland: Accelerated Nuclear Energy Exit Rejected

(Nov. 30, 2016) On November 27, 2016, Swiss voters rejected by a vote of 54.2% to 45.8% the Nuclear Energy Withdrawal Initiative. (Vorlage Nr. 608, Vorläufige amtliche Endergebnisse [Proposal No. 608, Preliminary Official Results], Swiss Federal Chancellery website (Nov. 27, 2016).) The initiative would have accelerated Switzerland’s exit from nuclear energy use, with three plants closing in 2017, a fourth one closing in 2024, and the last remaining of the five plants closing in 2029, and would have prohibited the construction of new plants. (Popular Initiative For an Orderly Withdrawal from the Nuclear Energy Programme (Nuclear Energy Withdrawal Initiative), Swiss Federal Council website (Nov. 27, 2016).)

Background

The five nuclear power plants now operating in Switzerland  provide between 39% and 45% of the country’s electricity. Following the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear accident in 2011, the Federal Council, the Swiss government, agreed that no new general licenses for nuclear power plants would be granted and that Switzerland would gradually withdraw from nuclear energy production and use. (Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), Nuclear Energy, SFOE website (July 12, 2016).)

In September 2013, the Federal Council adopted a new energy policy (2050 Energy Strategy). The 2050 Energy Strategy envisages a step-by-step withdrawal from nuclear energy production and use under which the existing nuclear power plants will not be replaced once they are decommissioned and no new additional plants will be built. The existing power plants will continue to operate as long as they are safe. (SFOE, Energy Strategy 2050, Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications website (last visited Nov. 28, 2016).) In order to compensate for the loss of electricity production from nuclear energy, the Energy Strategy 2050 calls for an increase in the use of renewable energy, in particular hydropower, and energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, and the transportation sector.  For this purpose, existing electricity networks are to be modernized and expanded, and the Federal Energy Act will be completely revised. (Id.)

Position of the Swiss Federal Council and Parliament

The Federal Council and the Parliament recommended rejecting the initiative. They argued that such a sudden and fundamental change in the rules for nuclear plant operators would result in claims for compensation against the government. In addition, they added that the proposed timeframe for decommissioning the nuclear power plants would not leave enough time to replace the nuclear energy with renewable energy, thereby increasing dependence on importing energy from foreign countries, which largely produce energy from coal and nuclear plants. (SWISS FEDERAL CHANCELLERY, EXPLANATIONS FROM THE FEDERAL COUNCIL – POPULAR INITIATIVE  OF NOVEMBER 27,2016. POPULAR INITIATIVE “FOR AN ORDERLY WITHDRAWAL FROM THE NUCLEAR ENERGY PROGRAM (NUCLEAR ENERGY WITHDRAWAL INITIATIVE)”  (Aug. 24, 2016), at 5 (in German).)

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Mexico/El Salvador/Guatemala/Honduras: Memorandum of Understanding on Labor Pilot Program

(Nov. 30, 2016) In October 2016, labor authorities from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras signed a memorandum of understanding providing for a labor pilot program whereby nationals of the Central American signatory countries may temporarily migrate to Mexico  to work in certain industries.  (Press Release, Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare, Suscribe México Acuerdo Migratorio Laboral con El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras (Oct. 14, 2016), Mexico’s Department of Labor website.)

Specifically, the pilot program will allow workers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to migrate to Mexico for up to 180 days in order to work in agriculture-related activities and services during certain periods of high labor demand, and highly skilled Mexicans will also be allowed to work in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras temporarily. (Id.)  The pilot program will be in force for six months, during which time Mexico may admit up to 1,000 workers from each of the other signatory countries. (Id.)

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