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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.

Iran: Charter on Citizens’ Rights Signed

(Feb. 28, 2017) With the aim of “recovering and promoting citizens’ rights,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, under his constitutional authority to “determine the program and policies of the government,” signed the Charter on Citizens’ Rights in a ceremony on December 19, 2016.  (Rouhani Unveils Charter on Civil Rights; Vagueness Regarding “Enforcement Guarantee, VOA (Dec. 19, 2016) (in Persian); Manshur-e Hoquq-e Shahrvandi [Charter on Citizens’ Rights] (Dec. 2016), Hassan Rouhani website; Charter on Citizen’s Rights (Charter) (Dec. 2016), Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran website (official English translation); Qanun-e Asasi-e Jomhuri-e Islami-e Iran [Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran] (1979), art. 134, Islamic Parliament Research Center of the Islamic Republic of Iran website; Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Constitution), Comparative Constitutions Project website.)

The Charter, which is actually draft legislation that needs to be passed by Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament), contains no specific enforcement guarantee.  (Rouhani Unveils Charter on Civil Rights; Vagueness Regarding “Enforcement Guarantee, supra; Mehrnaz Samimi, Will Rouhani’s “Charter of Rights” Change Anything in Iran?, ATLANTIC COUNCIL (Jan. 3, 2017).)

The Charter contains 120 articles, which include the right of Iranian citizens “to enjoy a decent life and necessities thereof, such as clean water, adequate food, promotion of health, … appropriate medical treatment, access to medicines, … and safe and sustainable environmental conditions.  (Charter, art. 2.)  The Charter guarantees citizens’ freedom of speech and expression “within the limits prescribed by law,” and affords them the right to access public information, communicate in cyberspace, assemble and participate in demonstrations, and receive due process of law.  (Id. arts. 26, 30, 33, 46 & 57.)  In addition, the Charter provides for a number of women’s rights, guaranteeing women’s participation in formulating policy and legislation and equality of social opportunities (id. art. 11); protection from verbal and physical abuse and violence (id. art. 54); appropriate job opportunities and pay equal to that of men (id. art. 83); and access to public environments and participation in social, cultural, and artistic groups (id. art. 103).

However, according to Iranian-American journalist Mehrnaz Samimi, “[m]any of these rights already exist in Iran’s constitution, but have often not been implemented.  Such a charter was among Rouhani’s campaign pledges when he first ran for president four years ago and the president may have felt the need to unveil the bill before running for re-election this spring.”  (Samimi, supra.)

Reactions to the Charter

Reactions to the issuing of the Charter reflect the divide within Iran between reformists, moderates, and centrists like Rouhani, and traditional and hardline conservatives.  (Kaylyn Wade, 2016 Iranian Elections: Clash of Reform and Revolution, EX-PATT MAGAZINE (Oct. 7, 2016).)  Some conservative commentators and newspapers have criticized the Charter as redundant and full of shortcomings, while Kayhān, Iran’s most prominent conservative newspaper – known as “the mouthpiece of ultra-conservatives” – labeled it a “list of unfulfilled duties of the government” and attacked governmental managers for receiving very high salaries and living in mansions while citizens were suffering from unemployment and inadequate housing.  (Samimi, supra; Rohollah Faghihi, Can Rouhani’s Citizens’ Rights Charter Be Enforced?, AL-MONITOR (Dec. 20, 2016).)  Moreover, the hardline Javān newspaper criticized the Charter for usurping the power of the Parliament and drafting legislation.  (Faghihi, supra.)

In contrast to the conservatives, reformists and moderates in the country welcomed the issuing of the Charter on Citizens’ Rights, but expressed serious concerns about whether it would have any significant effect or was even enforceable.  Writing in the reformist daily Shargh, Iranian lawyer Kambiz Norouzi stated that not only was the Charter clearly not a law, but it was not even possible to determine whether it was binding, government-approved legislation.  Norouzi’s primary concern is that because the Charter merely lists citizens’ rights but ignores the reasons why citizens’ rights already enshrined in existing laws are disregarded and violated, it cannot be effective.  (Kambiz Norouzi, Is the Charter on Citizens’ Rights …, SHARGH RUZNAMEH (Dec. 20, 2016) (in Persian).)

Other commentators trace such violations of citizens’ rights to the primary basis of the Charter – the Iranian Constitution itself, which affords no protection to religious minorities not officially recognized by the Constitution (that is, any minorities besides Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians).  Accordingly, “the effective application of each … of those rights may be compromised by interpretations of ‘Islamic criteria.’”  (Christopher Buck, The Trial of the Yaran Under the Iranian “Citizens’ Rights” and “Legal Procedures for Revolutionary Courts” Standards, IRAN PRESS WATCH (Feb. 20, 2010); U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, International Freedom Report 2005; Bijan DaBell, Iran Minorities 1: Diverse Religions (Sept. 3, 2013), United States Institute of Peace website.)

Finally, despite the Charter’s seven articles calling for various rights and protections for women (Charter, supra), it is silent about “existing laws [that] discriminate against women in a wide variety of areas, including age of criminal responsibility, marriage, inheritance, and veiling.”  (Shahin Milani, Situation of the Bahá’í Minority in Iran and the Existing Legal Framework, 69(2) JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (June 6, 2016).)

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Japan: Undertaking by Non-Attorneys of Requests to Delete Online Content Can Constitute Legal Representation

(Feb. 24, 2017) Under the Attorney Act, legal assistance from non-lawyers is restricted in Japan, as it is in most jurisdictions. (Attorney Act, Act No. 205 of 1949, as amended by Act No. 87 of 2005, art. 72, translated in JAPANESE LAW TRANSLATION.) According to news articles, on February 20, 2017, the Tokyo District Court decided that undertaking requests from a client to delete content on websites was legal representation. Therefore, the contract between the plaintiff, an individual who requested that a non-attorney agency take action to delete content, and the agency was invalid, and the agency must return fees that were received from the plaintiff. (Ryuji Nakagawa, Tokyo District Court Decided Illegal Nature of Net Article Deletion Business, ASAHI SHINBUN (Feb. 20, 2017) (in Japanese).)

As the number of persons and organizations that want their information on the Internet deleted has increased, the number of agencies that undertake deletion requests has also increased. (Ryuji Nakagawa & Hideki Murakami, Widespread Net “Deletion Businesses” Advertise Their Skills and Undertake Procedures, ASAHI SHINBUN (Feb. 21, 2017) (in Japanese).) Also, the number of disputes between clients and such agencies has grown. In the present case, the plaintiff wanted 13 websites to delete descriptions that would negatively affect him and paid about 500,000 yen (about US$4,500) for the deletion service. Because only ten websites deleted the descriptions after requests were made through the agency, the plaintiff was unhappy with the outcome, and sued the agency. (Nakagawa, supra.)

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Japan: Adoption of Grandchild in Order to Save on Inheritance Tax Can Be Valid

(Feb. 23, 2017) Japan’s Supreme Court decided, on January 31, 2017, that adoption of a grandchild can be valid even if the main purpose of the adoption is to save part of the heirs’ inheritance tax upon the grandparent’s death.  (Heisei 28 (ju) 1255, S. Ct. (Jan. 31, 2017), COURTS IN JAPAN (click on the characters beside the PDF icon).)

In the case at hand, the grandparent had three children, two daughters and one son. While the grandparent was alive, the son and his wife had an accountant explain to the grandparent the merits of a adopting their son for the purpose of saving on the inheritance tax.  The grandfather subsequently adopted the grandson.  Upon the grandfather’s death, his daughters filed a lawsuit against the grandson, claiming the adoption was invalid because it was for a tax-saving purpose, not really to make a father-son relationship.  (Id.)  The son’s family received, through the grandson, a bigger portion of the estate, while the daughters’ shares were reduced.  (Id.)

Inheritance tax can be saved by increasing the number of children who will be heirs, as a per-child deduction amount is allowed.  (Inheritance Tax Act, Act No. 73 of 1950, amended by Act No. 15 of 2016, art. 15, E-GOV (in Japanese).)  An accountant who reportedly had a great deal of experience in dealing with inheritance tax cases was quoted in a news item as stating that, among wealthy people in Japan, a fair number of people use adoption as a tool to reduce the inheritance tax.  (First Decision of Supreme Court, Allowed Adoption for Inheritance Tax Reduction, Followed Wealthy Class Practice, MAINICHI SHINBUN (Feb. 1, 2017) (in Japanese).)  In fact, the scope of heirs eligible to receive a tax deduction was changed in 1989, in order to reduce adoptions for the purpose of avoiding tax.  (Tetsuro Suzuki, Family Law, Parent and Child Relationship (2), Inheritance Tax Measures and Adoption, Nagoya Kita Law Office website (Nov. 18, 2014) (in Japanese).)

The Supreme Court stated that the motive of saving tax can co-exist with the intention to adopt a person.  In the case at hand, the Court did not find any facts that suggested a lack of intention to adopt the grandson.  Therefore, the Court decided the adoption was valid.  (Heisei 28 (ju) 1255, supra.)

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England and Wales: Thousands Receive Posthumous Pardon for Homosexuality Convictions

(Feb. 23, 2017) Section 166 of the recently enacted Policing and Crime Act of England and Wales granted approximately 49,000 deceased gay and bisexual men a posthumous pardon for offenses they were convicted of under the old sexual offenses laws that had provided that homosexuality was a crime.  The Act also states that any living person who was convicted of these offenses may apply for a statutory pardon to remove the convictions from their records.  (Policing and Crime Act 2017, c. 3, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

The law, referred to as the “Alan Turing law” after one of the most notable people to be convicted under the old provisions, grants posthumous pardons to men convicted of homosexuality offenses provided the following conditions are met:

  • the parties to the conduct were over the age of 16 years old and both consented; and
  • the offence is not an offence under section 71 of the Sexual Offences Act, which provides that sexual activity in a public restroom is a criminal offence.  (Policing and Crime Act, § 166.)

The offenses included under the Act, known during the time they were enacted as “unnatural offences,” are the offense of buggery under section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and similar related offenses under historical acts such as An Act for the Punishment of the Vice of Buggery 1533 and similar acts.  (Sexual Offences Act 1956, c. 69, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK; An Act for the Punishment of the Vice of Buggery 1533, 25 Hen. 8 c. 6, 3 STATUTES OF THE REALM at 441, available at HATHI TRUST DIGITAL LIBRARY; An Act Against Sodomy 1548, 2 & 3 Edw. 6, c. 29, 4 Pt 1 STATUTES OF THE REALM at 72, available at HATHI TRUST DIGITAL LIBRARY; An Act for the Punishment of the Vice of Buggery 1562, 5 Eliz. 1, c. 17, 4 Pt 1 STATUTES OF THE REALM at 447, available at HATHI TRUST DIGITAL LIBRARY; Offences Against the Person Act 1861, 24 & 25 Vict. c. 100, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

Alan Turing’s Case

Alan Turing, the namesake of the law, is considered to be the father of the computer and of artificial intelligence. He played a key role in breaking Nazi codes during World War II and was described by Winston Churchill as making “the single biggest contribution to the allied victory.”  (Ashley Cowburn, Theresa May Committed to Introducing ‘Alan Turing Law’ and Pardon Gay Men Convicted of ‘Gross Indecency,’ INDEPENDENT (London) (Sept. 21, 2016).)

Turing was convicted of gross indecency under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 after he acknowledged a sexual relationship with a male partner.  (Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, 48 & 49 Vict. c.69, available at British Library website.) He pled guilty and received a sentence of one year of probation, during which time he was required to undergo hormonal treatment, which left him impotent. (B.J. Copeland, Alan Turing, ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA (last updated Jan. 23, 2016).)  The conviction led to the revocation of his security clearance and left him unable to work for the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters; it also resulted in his being denied entry into the United States. Just two years after the conviction, he died in an apparent suicide after eating an apple poisoned with cyanide.  (Id.)  At the time of Turing’s death, suicide remained a criminal offense.  It was later decriminalized by the Suicide Act 1961.  (Suicide Act 1961, 9 & 10 Eliz. 2, c. 60, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

Turing was pardoned in 2013 by the rarely used Royal Prerogative of Mercy after Ministers altered their stance that he had been rightfully convicted of a crime under the provisions of the time. (Copeland, supra; Alan Turing’s Trial Charges and Sentences, 31 March 1952, supra.)

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