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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.

Japan: Act Aims to Promote Trade in Legally Produced Timber

(July 28, 2016) Japan’s Act on Promotion of Distribution and Use of Legally Logged Wood Products was promulgated on May 20, 2016.  (Act No. 48 of 2016, OFFICIAL GAZETTE (in Japanese).)  Under the new Act, wood product companies may apply for registration, certifying that they will apply measures to trade only in legally produced timber in their countries of origin, with Japanese government-licensed institutions that can certify such companies.  (Id. arts. 8 & 9.)  The standards for qualification as such a registered company are set by the government.  (Id. art. 6.)  The registration must be renewed every five years.  (Id. art. 12.)  Companies that falsely claim to be registered companies are subject to punishment of a fine of ¥300,000 (about US$2,850).  (Id. arts. 13-3 & 37.)

There is a separate system designed to tackle illegal logging. In 2006, the government amended the Basic Policy on Promotion of Procurement of Environmentally Friendly Goods (Cabinet Decision (Feb. 2006), Ministry of the Environment website (in Japanese)) under the Act on Promoting Green Purchasing (Act No. 100 of 2000, EGOV (in Japanese)).  The 2006 Basic Policy introduced a government procurement policy favoring wood products and products derived from wood that have been harvested in a legal and sustainable manner.  (Cabinet Decision, supra.)

Environment groups state that the 2006 procurement system only covers a small part of the consumption of wood products in Japan. Also, they claim that the new Act cannot obligate businesses to use legally logged woods; it merely promotes such use.  (Jun-ichi Mishiba, [Notice] Enactment of “Act on Promotion of Distribution and Use of Legally Logged Wood Products,” (May 19, 2016), Green Purchase Network website, (in Japanese); Editorials, Cracking Down on Illegal Logging, JAPAN TIMES (May 1, 2016).)

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Israel: Criminalization of Incitement of Volunteer Soldiers to Defect

(July 28, 2016) On July 12, 2016, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Penal Law (Amendment No. 127) (Incitement of Defection of a Person Who Volunteered for an Armed Force) 5776-2016. (Amendment No. 127, SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, the official gazette, SH] 5756 No. 2561, p. 140, as amended, Knesset website (last visited July 25, 2016) (in Hebrew).)  The Amendment Law amends the Penal Law 5737-1977.  (SH 5736 No. 864, p. 226, as amended (in Hebrew).)

Section 109(B) of the Penal Law prohibits inciting, procuring, or assisting “a person serving in an armed force to desert his service or a military operation.”  The Penal Law imposes a penalty of seven years of imprisonment for violating this prohibition.  The Amendment Law extends the prohibition and the penalty imposed to inciting, procuring, or assisting in a defection that targets a person who has volunteered to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).  (Amendment No. 127, supra.)

Explanatory notes for the Amendment Law draft bill state that the amendment was “designed to emphasize the importance of volunteering for military service and takes a clear position against the phenomenon of social condemnation that volunteers from certain communities are forced to deal with.”  (Penal Law (Amendment No. 127) 5776-2016 (Incitement of or Enticement to Defection of a Person Who Volunteered for an Armed Force) 5776-2016, Knesset Draft Bill No. 642 p. 130 (last visited July 25, 2016) (in Hebrew).)

According to Jonathan Alkhuri, a spokesman for the Christian Community Forum, and Shaadi Halul, the Chairman of a Christian Armenian association, the draft bill was initiated by the Christian community but was equally important to other minorities in Israel, such as the Bedouin and the Druze.  The bill was intended to protect IDF volunteers, including non-Jewish volunteers who are not subject to the mandatory draft, who themselves or whose family members are exposed to incitement, threats, and persecution after it is disclosed on social media or by other means that the volunteers joined the IDF.  (Penal Law (Amendment No. 127) 5776-2016 (Incitement of or Enticement to Defection of a Person Who Volunteered for an Armed Force) 5776-2016, Hearing of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee (July 6, 2016) (in Hebrew).)

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Maldives: Supreme Court Decision Allows Executions to Proceed

(July 28, 2016) On July 24, 2016, the Supreme Court of the Maldives reversed a stay order issued the day before by the High Court. The High Court order had stopped executions based on that court’s views of the constitutionality of the regulations that implement the punishment. The Supreme Court ruling means that two pending death sentences can now be carried out. (Mohamed Saif Fathih, Supreme Court Overturns Stay Order Halting Executions, MALDIVES INDEPENDENT (July 25, 2016); Court Order of Supreme Court of Maldives, Department of Judicial Administration website (July 24, 2016) (in Dhivehi).) Under the Constitution of the Maldives, the Supreme Court is the highest authority for the administration of justice in the country.  (Functional Translation of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives (2008), art. 145 (c), Presidency website.)

The case had originally been brought to the High Court by the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), a non-governmental human rights organization. (Fathih, supra.) The MDN is described as a “peaceful and non-partisan NGO established after mass arrests and allegations of abuse in prisons in August 2004.” (Maldivian Democracy Network, Network for Improved Policing in South Asia (NIPSA) website (last visited July 26, 2016).) The MDN had contended that the regulations on imposition of the death penalty, because they restrict a fundamental, constitutional right, could only be valid if done by an act of Parliament. (Fathih, supra.) The procedural regulations had been published in the government gazette in 2014. (Ahmed Rilwan, Death Penalty Can Be Implemented Starting Today: Home Minister, MINIVAN NEWS (Apr. 27, 2014).)

The President of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, has expressed support for capital punishment, noting that in Islamic law, murder is punished with death. He stated, “[t]his is clearly said in the Holy Quran. As such, the death penalty has to be implemented to implement the legal framework.” (Maldivian President Yameen Addresses Nation on Independence Day, Focuses on Sovereignty, Judiciary, MIHAARU ONLINE (July 25, 2106), Open Source Enterprise online subscription database, No. SAO2016072641901659.)

Reaction to the Stay Order

Although the Supreme Court also stated that the appellate court could not further consider the case, the Executive Director of the MDN, Shahindha Ismail, has not accepted that the matter is settled, arguing that the case was not heard directly by the Supreme Court and pointing out technical problems with the Court’s decision. She stated that the reported Supreme Court document “does not even have a signature or initial of an authorized person of the Supreme Court and the case number quoted on last night’s order seems to be that of a previous case.” (Fathih, supra.)

Regulations on Executions

The regulations to which the MDN objected specify that capital punishment for the crimes of intentional homicide or premeditated murder can be implemented when the Supreme Court issues that sentence. These steps must be followed:

  1. A death penalty committee must send a written confirmation to the President to show that proper procedure has been followed. That committee comprises the Prosecutor General, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or a person appointed by him, and the Commissioner of Prisons.
  2. Within three days, the President sends an execution order to the Commissioner of Prisons.
  3. Within seven days of receipt of the execution order, the Maldives Correctional Service uses lethal injection to carry out the execution. (Rilwan, supra.)

In addition, at some point presumably after the trial but before the death penalty committee’s meeting, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has a mediation session involving the convict and the family of the victim. This process, designed to utilize the Islamic law principle of qisas (retaliation), allows family members to pardon the guilty individual; sometimes the murderer pays “blood money” to the family in this process. If even one member of the family pardons the convict, the death penalty will not be imposed. Family members have a ten-day period after the mediation session to make their decision. (Id.)

The regulations also specify that convicts who are younger than 18, who are ill, or who are pregnant cannot be executed. The death penalty is suspended until the convict comes of age, recovers his or her health, or, in the case of a pregnant woman, until the child is two years old. (Id.)

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Italy: Legislation on Support for the Disabled

(July 27, 2016) On June 25, 2016, legislation establishing measures for the benefit of persons with disabilities entered into effect in Italy. (Law No. 112 of June 22, 2016, Provisions on Assistance Benefitting Persons with Serious Disabilities Who Are Deprived of Family Support (Law No. 112), GAZETTA UFFICIALE, No. 146 (June 24, 2016), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).) The new Law provides for the assistance, care, and protection of persons with serious disabilities, whether caused by natural aging or medical conditions, and who are deprived of family support because they are either missing both parents or their parents are not able to provide adequate support. (Id. art. 1(2).)

The stated purpose of the new legislation is to promote the well-being, full social inclusion, and autonomy of persons with disabilities through the implementation of certain key principles set forth in the Italian Constitution: inviolable rights of the person, social dignity and equality before the law, the duty and right of parents to support, raise, and educate their children, health as a fundamental right of the individual and as a collective interest, and the rights of citizens unable to work and of persons with disabilities to welfare support. (Id. art. 1(1); Constitution of the Italian Republic (Dec. 27, 1947), arts. 2, 3, 30, 32, & 38, respectively, Parliamentary Information, Archives and Publications Office of the Senate Service for Official Reports and Communication.)

The legislation also aims at implementing related provisions of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights (2000 O.J. (C364) 1, EUROPA) and of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 2006 (A/RES/61/106 (Dec. 13, 2006), Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for  Human Rights website) ratified by Italy by Law No. 18 of March 3, 2009. (Law No. 112, art. 1(1).)

Social Benefits to Be Guaranteed Throughout the Country 

The law requires that government at all levels ensure basic health services and social care as needed by persons with serious disabilities, based on available resources and according to applicable legislation. This duty may be carried out through collaboration between municipalities. (Id. art. 2(1).)

New Financial Mechanisms 

The new legislation creates mechanisms to facilitate its financial goals, including through contributions by private individuals, insurance policies, trusts and other special funds, and contracts for the custody and administration of a beneficiary’s assets by another person or a non-profit organization. (Id. art. 1(3).)

The law creates a Fund for the Assistance of Persons with Serious Disabilities Who Are Deprived of Family Support within the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies. (Id. art. 3(1).) The initial budget of the Fund is €90 million (about US$99.1 million) for the year 2016, €38.3 million (about US$42.1 million) for the year 2017, and €56.1 million (about US$61.7 million) from the year 2018 onwards. (Id.) The specific requirements to access Fund payments will be established by a decree of the Ministry to be enacted within six months of the Law’s effective date. (Id. art. 3(2).) Regions, local entities, quasi-governmental entities, and private parties with proven experience in providing assistance to disabled persons may also contribute to the Fund. (Id. art. 4(2).) The geographic regions must define their own criteria for the allocation and withdrawal of funds for individual beneficiaries. (Id.)

The objectives of the Fund are to:

(a) strengthen programs aimed at the de-institutionalization of care for the beneficiaries, through giving home care or care in apartment groups that reproduce the housing conditions and relationships of a family home while also including the best of new technologies, in order to prevent beneficiaries from suffering social isolation;

(b) facilitate the temporary residence of beneficiaries in housing outside the family home in emergency situations, in accordance with the will of the persons with serious disabilities, or when that is not possible to ascertain, the will of their parents or guardians;

(c) implement family-type accomodation solutions and co-housing, which may include the payment of purchase costs, leases, renovations, and installation of the necessary structures and equipment in existing housing, including modalities for mutual assistance among persons with disabilities; and

(d) develop skills for the management of daily life, in order to have the beneficiaries achieve the highest possible level of autonomy. (Id. art. 4(1)(a)-(d).)

Other financial instruments include trusts, target bonds, and special funds composed of assets that are encumbered by liens for the benefit of persons with serious disabilities. (Id. art. 6(1).) These financial instruments are eligible for tax exemptions, provided that certain conditions are met, among them, that their acts of incorporation or bylaws expressly state that their purpose is to benefit persons with serious disabilities, including the need to reduce the risk of their institutionalization. (Id. arts. 6(2) & 6(3)(b).) Other corporate and registration requirements applicable to these financial instruments are also established in the Law, including obligations of trustees and managers. (Id. art. 6(3)(c)-(h).)

In the case of death of the trust beneficiary prior to the death of the trustor or the person who has instituted the special funds as established according to the new legislation, the transfer of assets and rights to the trust beneficiaries enjoys the same tax exemptions accorded to succession and donations regulated in the Law. (Id. art. 6(4).)  Municipalities may establish reduced rates or exemptions from municipal taxes applicable to the beneficiaries only as long as such measures do not create new or increased burdens on the public finances. (Id. art. 6(8).)

Insurance Policies for Persons with Serious Disabilities 

Effective on December 31, 2016, the new legislation raises the insurance premiums for insurance plans that cover the risk of death of persons with serious disabilities. (Id. art. 5(1).) The legislation appropriates government funds to offset the loss of revenue to insurers resulting from these new provisions. (Id.)

Public Education Campaign

The President of the Council of Ministers must begin an information campaign to create awareness of the provisions of the new law and other forms of public support for persons with serious disabilities, so that such persons may take advantage of the new mechanisms and instruments created by the Law, and to make the general public aware of the benefits of social inclusion of persons with serious disabilities. (Id. art. 7(1).)

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Italy: Legislation on Administrative Agency Coordination

(July 27, 2016) On July 3, 2016, new legislation entered into effect in Italy concerning an administrative coordinating mechanism known as a “conference of services” (conferenza di servizi), intended to simplify and expedite the procedures of such conferences.  (Legislative Decree No. 127 of June 30, 2016, Provisions for the Reorganization Concerning the Services Conference, Implementing Article 2 of Law No. 124 of August 7, 2015 (L.D.  No. 127), GAZETTA UFFICIALE, No. 153 (July 2, 2016), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)

A conference of services is convened when multiple government agencies are involved in a single administrative matter in order to coordinate decision-making and to ensure that all relevant offices participate. (Id. art. 1(2); Conferenza di servizi, TRECCANI (an online Italian encyclopedia) (last visited, July 26, 2016).)

The new legislation provides for the calling of service conferences to address different administrative areas, such as infrastructure projects and projects subject to environmental impact assessments.  (Id. art. 1(3) & (4).) Among other things, the legislation sets forth procedural rules for meetings with respect to such matters as timelines, quora, purposes of a meeting, and meeting minutes.  (Id. art. 1(5)(2).)

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