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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.

Bahrain: High Court Orders the Dissolution of the Main Shi’ite Opposition Group

(July 22, 2016) On July 17, 2016, the High Civil Court of Manama, Bahrain ordered the dissolution of the Wefaq National Islamic Society. The Court’s ruling ordered the liquidation of the organization’s assets and froze all of its banks accounts. (High Court Dissolves al Wefaq, BAHRAIN NEWS AGENCY (July 7, 2016).) The Court rendered its decision after finding members of the Wefaq organization guilty of promoting extremism. The court stated that Wefaq does not respect the principle of the rule of law and does not adhere to the provisions of the law regulating and protecting the principles of coexistence, tolerance, and respect for others. The Court also argued that the organization fosters an atmosphere for the incubation of terrorism, extremism, and violence. Furthermore, it claimed that the Wefaq organization is funded by foreign groups and other countries aiming at creating chaos within Bahraini society. Accordingly, the Court authorized the Ministry of Finance to confiscate all monetary accounts of the organization in Bahraini banks. Finally, the Court accused the Wefaq organization of calling for the foreign interference in the national affairs of the country. (Bahrain Court Dissolves Main Shi’ite Opposition, REUTERS (July 17, 2016).)

Applicable Laws

Law 51 of 2012, amending Penal Code No.15 of 1976, establishes crimes such as the spreading of false news for the purpose of harming national security, promoting violence, and acts of terrorism. (Law 51 of 2012, 3073 AL JARIDAH AL RASMYIAH (Oct. 11, 2012) (in Arabic).) Title I describes crimes against national security, as established under Penal Code No. 15 of 1976, and also penalizes the offense of receiving money from a foreign entity in order to create chaos or harm public order and national security. (Royal Decree Promulgates Law No.15 of 1976, 1170 AL JARIDAH AL RASMYIAH (Apr. 8, 1976) (in Arabic).) Although the Penal Code does not call for the dissolution of the political organizations, Law 34 of 2014, amending article 23 of Law 26 of 2005 on Political Organizations, authorizes a court to dissolve an organization and freeze its assets and bank accounts if it violates the provisions of the Constitution. The court decision must be based on a request submitted to a civil court by the Ministry of Justice. (Law 34 of 2014, 3171 AL JARIDAH AL RASMYIAH Aug. 28, 2014) (in Arabic).)

Background

In June 2016, the Court of Appeal in Manama sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, the General Secretary of the Al Wefaq, to nine years in prison after finding him guilty of insulting the Ministry of the Interior, promoting terrorism, and attempting to overthrow the political system by force. (Bahrain Ramps up Opposition Chief Ali Salman’s Sentence, AL JAZEERA (May 30, 2016).) Other members of the party were also sentenced to a period of imprisonment after being convicted of spreading false news. (Bahrain Court Orders Shia Opposition Group to be Dissolved, GUARDIAN (July 17, 2016).)

In the same month, following the request of the Ministry of the Interior, the Bahraini authorities stripped the spiritual leader of the Wefaq National Islamic Society, Sheikh Issa Qassim, of his Bahraini citizenship and charged him with playing a vital role in establishing an environment of extremism among Bahraini citizens. (Id.)

Reaction to the Recent Decision

Human rights activists in Bahrain and abroad have denounced the Court decision. They claim that it violates the right to freedom of speech. The defense lawyers for the Wefaq also accused the Court of being biased after the judge prevented them from going back to the offices of the party to prepare their defense. (Id.) International organizations, such as Amnesty International and the European Parliament, have demanded that the Bahraini authorities free all political activists and drop all charges. (Bharian’s Main Shia Opposition Bloc Dissolved by Court, RUSSIA TODAY (July 17, 2016).)

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United Nations: Agreement on Illegal Fishing

(July 22, 2016) In a July 1, 2016, statement, the Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, lauded an agreement on illegal fishing which, although concluded on November 22, 2009, just came into force on June 5, 2016. The Director-General stated that “[g]enerations to come will recognize the importance of this achievement … .” (UN Agency Urges Implementation of Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishing, UN NEWS CENTRE (July 12, 2016); Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (Nov. 22, 2009) (the Agreement), FAO website.)

According to the Abstract attached to the Agreement, the pact “seeks to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures as a means of ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources.” (Abstract, id.) The FAO stated that the Agreement will increase regional and international cooperation and will help harmonize port rules.  It noted that the “Agreement is binding and stipulates minimum port States measures. However, countries are free to adopt more stringent measures than those outlined in the Agreement.” (The Benefits of Ratifying and Implementing the 2009 FAO Port State Measures Agreement, FAO website (last visited July 18, 2016).)

The Treaty is the first binding international agreement concerned with illegal fishing; at present more than 30 individual countries and the European Union have acceded to it. It establishes a requirement for foreign vessels to permit inspections at all ports and for nations with ports to control how their own fishing fleets behave. It seeks to prevent illegally caught fish from coming ashore and being sold, thus making improper fishing unprofitable. (UN Agency Urges Implementation of Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishing, supra.)

Graziano da Silva has noted that due to limited resources, some countries will have difficulty implementing the Agreement. (Id.) It specifies that “Parties shall cooperate to establish appropriate funding mechanisms to assist developing States in the implementation of this Agreement.” (Agreement, art. 4, supra.) The FAO is also establishing an inter-regional “Technical Cooperation Programme” and a “Global Capacity Development Umbrella Programme” to help put the provisions of the Agreement into effect. Graziano da Silva said that the “FAO is working to deliver immediate support to those countries that are most in need of it.” (UN Agency Urges Implementation of Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishing, supra.)

The FAO estimates that the up to 26 million tons of fish caught improperly each year have a value of about $23 billion. The illegal activity puts marine ecosystems in jeopardy and harms the incomes and food security of millions of fishermen. (Id.)

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Israel: Laws Authorize Expulsion of Lawmakers Engaged in Incitement to Racism or Support of Armed Struggle Against the State

(July 21, 2016) On July 20, 2016, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Basic Law: the Knesset (Amendments No. 44) (BLK), and the Knesset Law (Amendment No. 43) (KL), both dated 5776-2016.  (Knesset website (click on Issue No. 216 (last visited July 20, 2016) (both laws in Hebrew); Basic Law: the Knesset, (5718 – 1958), as amended, Knesset website(unofficial translation by Dr. Susan Hattis Rolef) (last visited July 20, 2016) (the Law); Knesset Law, 5754-1994, SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, the official gazette] 5754 No. 1462, p. 140, as amended.)

The BLK authorizes the termination of Knesset membership for a Knesset Member determined by a majority of at least 90 Members to have engaged in incitement to racism or support of armed struggle against the state after being elected to the Knesset. (BLK §1, adding subsection §42A (c) (1) to the law.) The activities that are the subject of the determination had already constituted grounds for barring participation of candidates in elections to the Knesset under sections 7a. (a) (2-3) of the Law.

Membership termination under the new provisions may only be imposed in response to a proposal by the Knesset Committee, made based on a majority decision of three-fourths of its members, initiated by 70 Members including at least 10 from opposition parties. (BLK §1, adding subsection §42A (c) (2) to the Law).

The seat of a Member who is the subject of a termination determination will become vacant 14 days after the Knesset’s determination. During this 14-day period, the relevant Member will not permitted to participate in hearings in the Knesset or its committees, except for the purpose of voting. (BLK §1, adding subsection §42A (c) (3) to the Law.)

The Knesset determination may be appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court. (BLK §1, adding subsection §42A (c) (4) to the Law.)

The KL provides specifics for implementation of the authority to terminate a Member’s position under the BLK. A request for termination should be submitted to the Knesset chairperson in writing and should include an explanation and substantiating evidence. (KL §1, adding subsection Chapter D1 §8A(a) to the Knesset Law.) The Knesset Committee must not propose and the Knesset must not decide to terminate a membership unless the Member, by him/herself or through a legal representative; the Knesset Attorney; and the Government Attorney have been provided with the opportunity to express their views. (Id., adding §8A(c) to the Knesset Law.) The KL provides time limits for consideration of a membership request by the Knesset Committee and by the Knesset at large, as well as for filing an appeal to the Supreme Court. (Id., adding §8A(d-g) to the Knesset Law.)

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Indonesia: Central Government Advocates Lower Local Real Estate Taxes

(July 21, 2016) Indonesia’s national government has asked municipal governments to reduce the building and land acquisition taxes they impose and to allow special tax treatment for real estate investment trusts (REITs). The purpose of the reductions would be to increase Indonesia’s competitiveness in attracting investment. (Anton Hermansyah, Govt to Give Local REITS Special Tax Treatment, JAKARTA POST (July 18, 2016).)

The Coordinating Economic Minister, Darmin Nasution, speaking on July 18, 2016, said that although the national tax rate for REITs had been reduced to 5% as of March 29, 2016, in some places the leaders have not cut local building and land acquisition taxes. (Id.; Kristo Molina, New Tax Incentives for Indonesian REITs, CASE & WHITE (Apr. 8, 2016).) He pointed out that while the rate taxation for REITs in Singapore is only 3%, in Indonesia it is about 8%, including the 5% central government tax and additional taxes imposed by municipal governments. (Govt to Give Local REITS Special Tax Treatment, supra.) However, representatives from only five local governments – East Jakarta, Jakarta, South Sulawesi, West Java, and Yogyakarta – attended the July 18 meeting with Nasution and Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo. (Id.) Jakarta had already cut the applicable local taxes to 1% by late May. (Anton Hermansyah, Regional Issues Hold Reits Stimulus Package Incentives Back, JAKARTA POST (May 31, 2016).)

The advantage of attracting investment in REITs was described by Poltak Hotradero, the head of research for the Indonesia Stock Exchange, who noted that “REITs actually provide a great benefit for regional administrations in boosting infrastructure development. Let’s say for the new airport in Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta. If the commercial area is securitized with REITs, they would raise a large amount of capital to build other infrastructure.” (Id.)

Background

Reduction in taxes for REITs had been promised as part of Indonesia’s economic stimulus policies. Investors in REITs will apparently have to wait for the local portion of their tax burden to be reduced, because regional governments are reluctant to lose the extra income. (Id.)

Since 2007, REITs have been regulated in Indonesia as “Real Estate Investment Funding in the Form of Collective Investment Contracts,” but although such REITs have the ability to accept investments for real estate assets, they have not been popular with investors. The tax rate has been cited as one of the reasons. (Molina, supra.)

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Israel: Law Authorizes Preventing Harassment of Emergency Centers

(July 21, 2016) On March 30, 2016, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Prevention of Harassment of Emergency Centers Law, 5776-2016.  (SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, the official gazette] 5776 No. 2552, p. 878, Knesset website  (last visited July 19, 2016) (in Hebrew).)

The Law authorizes emergency centers to block the access of a telephone number from which a call containing “harassment conversation” was made. (Id. §2.) The Law defines “harassment conversation” as

A conversation, including a call without a message or a statement, to an emergency center, which may harm, scare, tease, curse, mock, bother, create anxiety, or annoy, including a false call for help and unnecessary contact to the emergency center which may disturb the center’s work. (Id. §1.)

An officer authorized under the Law may order the temporary blockage of a telephone number from which harassment conversations were made in accordance with procedures established by the Minister of Public Security in consultation with the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee (Id. §§2 & 11.) A telephone number from which three or more additional harassment conversations were made after being previously blocked may be blocked for four days. Two weeks of blockage may be further imposed on a phone number from which at least two conversations were made after the lifting of the additional blockage. (Id. §3.) A permanent blockage of a telephone number may be ordered when additional harassment conversations are made from that number. (Id. §4.)

The Law requires that prior to implementing phone blockage, a phone number’s subscriber or possessor must be notified and given the opportunity to object in a place and time as specified in the notice. (Id. §5(a).)

Under exceptional circumstances and according to procedures to be determined by the Israel Police Chief of the Operations Unit, an order may be issued to a provider of telecommunication services to prevent the ability of a phone used in connection with harassment conversations to receive telecommunications services. (Id. §6.)

The Minister of Public Security must report to the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on the number of orders issued for blockage of telephones and for disabling telecommunications services. The report must be submitted annually, in writing, and include the total number of incoming conversations received by emergency centers. (Id. §12.)

According to the explanatory notes for the bill, the Law was designed to address the increasing number of false calls directed at emergency centers, which result in a waste of resources. (Telecommunications (Communications and Broadcasts) (Amendment No. 62) (Disturbing Emergency Center) Draft Bill 5776-2015, HATSAOT HOK [DRAFT BILLS], the Knesset, No. 603 p. 6, Knesset website (last visited July 20, 2016) (in Hebrew).)

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