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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.

Indonesia: Court Finds Company Guilty of Starting Forest Fire

(Feb. 21, 2017) On February 7, 2017, the South Jakarta District Court issued a guilty decision against the company PT Waringin Agro Jaya (WAJ), which markets palm oil.  The company was found to have deliberately lit a fire to clear land in South Sumatra Province, leading to a forest fire.  WAJ was ordered to pay a fine of Rp466.5 billion (about US$35 million); approximately 37% of that fine is considered to be compensation for the over six square miles of land that were burned, and the remainder will cover rehabilitation costs.  (Hans Nicolas Jong, Government Wins in Forest Fire Case, JAKARTA POST (Feb. 9, 2017).)

The plaintiff in the case was Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, which has won a number of court cases against businesses in recent years; however, in none of the cases has a company as yet paid a fine.  In the WAJ case, the Ministry had asked for a higher fine of Rp754 billion (about US$56.4 million).  (Id.)

The Ministry and Bambang Hero Saharjo of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, who had been a forest-fire expert witness in the case, welcomed the decision.  Saharjo said that the judges were correct to hold WAJ liable and that the judges “showed support for the environment.”  (Id.)  On the other hand, according to the company’s attorney, M. Sidik Latuconsina, WAJ is planning to appeal the decision.  (Id.)

Background

The process of deforestation, often connected with forest and peatland fires, is considered a major environmental issue in Indonesia.  In 2015, uncontrolled fires resulted in widespread smog, considered to be a significant environmental disaster.  (Jong, supra.)  The fires and related haze caused economic losses equal to 1.9% of Indonesia’s national gross domestic product.  The damaging smog spread to Malaysia and Singapore.  (Haeril Halim & Hans Nicholas Jong, Indonesian Government Remains Vigilant on Forest Fires, JAKARTA POST (Jan. 24, 2017).)

The Ministry of the Environment and Forestry has encountered challenges in enforcing court verdicts against businesses.  According to Rasio Diho Sani, the director-general for law enforcement at the Ministry, enforcement is a lengthy process due in part to the need to wait for an official record of the judicial decision, which may take more than a year.  The Ministry has also pointed to the need for a standard enforcement mechanism and has asked the Supreme Court to issue a regulation on the matter.  Sani noted that a September 2015 final, binding decision against another palm oil company, found guilty of illegal burning in Aceh Province, has yet to be enforced.  (Jong, supra.)

In another environmental case, a company found to have caused damage on Belitung Island was ordered to pay damages more than three years ago but is negotiating the timetable for payment of the Rp31.5 billion (about US$2.36 million) fine.  Jasmin Ragil Utomo , the Ministry’s environmental dispute settlement director, said of that case that the company “asked to make payments over 15 years.  But we can’t allow that.”  (Id.)

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Japan: Google Does Not Have to Delete Search Results Related to Arrest

(Feb. 21, 2017) On January 31, 2017, Japan’s Supreme Court rejected a petitioner’s demand that Google remove web search results that show reports of his arrest for child prostitution in 2011. (Heisei 28 (Kyo) 45 (S. Ct., Jan. 31, 2017), COURTS IN JAPAN (click Chinese characters beside the pdf icon).)

The petitioner in the case claimed his right to privacy was violated by Google. The Court recognized that he had the right to privacy, but found that the provision of web search results had the character of an act of expression by Google, because the search program reflects Google’s policies on web searches. In addition, the Court recognized in general the importance of Internet search engines like Google’s in society. (Id.)

The Court set forth the general rule that the adverse effects of invasion of privacy versus the importance of provision of search results must be weighed in individual cases, and when the right to privacy prevails, the person whose information was revealed can demand the deletion of the search results. (Id.) The Court set forth the elements to be considered in balancing the two, for example:

  • the nature of the information;
  • the extent to which the information is spread by the search results;
  • the extent of adverse effects for the person who is the subject of the search;
  • the public status of the searched person; and
  • the purpose and meaning of the presentation of the information on the websites. (Id.)

The court of first instance, the Saitama District Court, recognized the man’s right to be forgotten and ordered Google to delete the search results. (First to Recognize “Right to Be Forgotten,” Saitama District Court Decided to Delete Arrest Records Shown in Search Results, TOKYO NEWSPAPER (Feb. 28, 2016) (in Japanese).)

The Tokyo High Court reversed the decision and did not recognize the right to be forgotten. The High Court stated that the right to be forgotten did not have to be independently considered, because it was not yet a concrete concept, and it could be included in the discussion of the right to privacy and defamation. (Tokyo High Court Did Not Recognize “Right to Be Forgotten,” Articles Searched by Google “Elements and Effects Are Not Clear, NIKKEI (July 13, 2016) (in Japanese).) The Supreme Court did not mention the right to be forgotten when it affirmed the High Court decision. (Heisei 28 (Kyo) 45, supra.)

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Italy: Legislation on Ministry of Foreign Affairs Implemented

(Feb. 21, 2017) On January 16, 2017, legislation reorganizing certain executive-level positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs entered into effect in Italy. (Decree of the President of the Republic, No. 260 of December 29, 2016, Regulations for the Implementation of Article 20 of Law No. 125 of August 11, 2014, and Other Amendments to the Organization and Executive-Level Positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (D.P.R. No. 260), GAZZETTA UFFICIALE (G.U.) No. 26 (Feb. 1, 2017), NORMATTIVA (in Italian); Law No. 125 of August 11, 2014, on International Cooperation for Development, G.U. No. 199 (Aug. 28, 2014), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)

D.P.R. No. 260 amends Decree No. 95 of the President of the Republic of May 19, 2010, on the Reorganization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the Ministry). (G.U. No. 145 (June 24, 2010), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)  D.P.R. No. 260 updates the internal organization and responsibilities of the Ministry’s executive-level officials, both in the central offices and overseas, and sets forth the number of executive units to exist in the Ministry, the description of top executive officials’ positions, and coordination mechanisms and hierarchical relations between top executive-level officials. (D.P.R. No. 260 art. 5(8)(f).)

The following are other particular areas amended by D.P.R. No. 260.

  • The powers of the Secretary General of the Ministry’s Central Administration as head of the National Authority for Authorizations of Weapons Materials (The National Authority – UAMA (Unita’ per le autorizzazioni dei materiali d’armamento), Farnesina website (last visited Feb. 16, 2017)) to issue authorizations for the exchange of weapons and to engage in other transactions performed by weapons industries have been enhanced. (D.P.R. No. 260, art. 1(1)(b).)
  • The powers of the General Inspector of the Ministry have been extended to include “the promotion of a culture of legality,” including measures related to the security of Ministry personnel and of the central and overseas offices. (Id. art. 1(1)(c).)
  • The powers of the General Directorate for Political Affairs and Security (General Directorate) have been broadened to encompass common European security and defense policies. (Id. art. 1(1)(d).)
  • The General Directorate has been empowered to deal with international organizations in matters of economic and commercial cooperation and also theprotection of intellectual property. (Id. art. 5(6).)
  • New powers were given to the General Directorate to assume the political representation of Italy in the development of bilateral relations and in the handling of relations with international organizations and with the European Union. (Id. art. 5(8)(a).)
  • The General Directorate has been given enhanced powers to manage Italy’s interests concerning European financial instruments related to development cooperation, the European Development Fund, the bank industry, and other financial mechanisms designed to promote international development. (Id. art. 5(8)(a).)
  • The General Directorate is now charged with evaluating emergency interventions for humanitarian purposes at the international level. (Id. art. 5(8)(c).)

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Egypt: Constitutional Court Grants Coptic Christians the Right to Paid Leave for Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

(Feb. 17, 2017) On February 5, 2017, the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt rendered a decision granting Coptic Christians who are civil servants the right to paid work leave for one month to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  (Egypt Court Rules Coptic Christians, Like Muslims, Have Right to Paid Holidays for Pilgrimage, EGYPTIAN STREETS (Feb. 8, 2017).)

The Court stated that the Civil Service Law discriminates against Coptic Christians.  (Id.)  While article 51(1) of Law No. 81 of 2016 on the civil services grants Muslim civil servants the right, once in a career, to paid leave of 30 days to conduct a pilgrimage to Mecca, it denies the same right to Coptic Christians who are interested in visiting the city of Jerusalem, for the purpose of a religious pilgrimage to Christian holy sites.  (Law No. 81 of 2016, 43a AL-JARIDA AL-RASSMYAH (Duplicate) (Nov. 1, 2016) (in Arabic).)

The Court also asserted that article 51(1) is in violation of articles 4 and 9 of the Egyptian Constitution of 2014.  Article 4 of the Constitution states that the people are the guardians of national unity, which is based on the principles of equality, justice, and equal opportunity among citizens.  Article 9 provides that the state ensures equal opportunity for all citizens without discrimination.  (Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt (2014), State Information Service website (unofficial translation).)

Reaction to the Decision 

Human rights activists and legal scholars praised the court decision.  Naguib Gobrail, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit three years ago that resulted in this ruling, stated that the decision is an unprecedented victory for the rule of law that eliminates religious discrimination against Coptic Christian civil servants.  (Taha Sakr, Will It Be Easy for Coptic Egyptians to Go on Pilgrimage to Jerusalem?, DAILY NEWS (Feb. 5, 2017).)

Background

Coptic Christians were banned from visiting Christian holy sites in the city of Jerusalem by the late Coptic Christian Pope, Pope Shannoda III, in 1980, and by a ministerial resolution issued by the Egyptian Minister of the Interior (equivalent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) in 2010. (Id.)  On February 2, 2010, moreover, the Administrative Judicial Court of Egypt, the country’s adjudicative body for administrative disputes related to presidential and ministerial decisions, upheld this resolution issued by the Minister of the Interior to prevent Christians living in Egypt from visiting the Church of the Resurrection and the Church of the Nativity in Jerusalem.  (George Sadek, Egypt: Administrative Court Prohibits Christians from Visiting Churches in Jerusalem, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Mar. 24, 2010); see also The Administrative Court Upheld a Ministerial Resolution Preventing Coptic Christians from Going to Jerusalem, AL JARIDA (Mar. 2, 2010) (in Arabic).)

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Israel: Law on the Regulation of Settlement in Judea and Samaria

(Feb. 16, 2017) On February 6, 2017, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed a law for the regulation of settlements on land in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).  (Law on Regulation of Settlement in Judea and Samaria, 5777-2017, SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, SH] (the official gazette) No. 2604 p. 394 at 410 (Feb. 13, 2017), available at Ministry of Justice website (scroll to issue no. 2604).)  The land in Judea and Samaria subject to regulation is defined as that on which Israeli settlements were built “in good faith” or “with the consent of the state.”  (Id. § 3.)

The law provides for registration of land ownership under the name of the government official in charge if ownership has not otherwise been identified.  (Id. § 3(1).)  Additionally, it provides for the expropriation of the rights to use and possession of privately owned land in the region.  Such expropriation will be in effect until a political resolution on the status of the West Bank is achieved.  (Id. § 3(2).)  Landowners whose property rights have been affected will be compensated monetarily or by grant of alternative land.  (Id. § 8.)

The law provides for the establishment of an assessment committee for the determination of the appropriate value of the use of privately owned land expropriated in accordance with the law’s provisions, after hearing the owner’s claims.  (Id. § 9.)  The law further requires the establishment of an appellate committee to review appeals of decisions made by the assessment committee.  (Id. § 10.)

With effect from the date of publication, the law suspends all pending administrative orders for the evacuation and destruction of settlements subject to regulation until the expiration of such orders upon the completion of planning procedures for land subject to regulation under the law’s provisions.  The suspension and expiration requirement does not apply to orders issued for the implementation of judicial decrees or court decisions.  (Id. §§ 6-7.)  An appendix to the law lists 16 specific settlements for which all pending enforcement and administrative orders must be suspended and authorizes the Minister of Justice, with the approval of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, to add additional settlements to this list by means of a decree.  (Id. § 11 & Appendix.)

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