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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: 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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Sweden: Jehovah’s Witnesses Have Right to State Funding

(Feb. 24, 2017) On February 20, 2017, the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court decided that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the right to state funding and that not providing such support would violate articles 14 and 19 of the European Convention on Human Rights. (Case No. 2310-16, Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen [Swedish Supreme Administrative Court], Feb. 20, 2017, HÖGSTA FÖRVALTNINGSDOMSTOLEN [SUPREME COURT REPORTER) (HFD).)


Under Swedish law, the government provides state funding to faith-based organizations (trossamfund), provided that they contribute to “upholding and strengthening the fundamental values upon which the [Swedish] society rests.” (3 § 1 Lagen om Stöd Till Trossamfund [Act on Support to Faith-Based Organizations (the Act), Svensk författningssamling [SFS] 1999:932, NOTISUM.)

The Swedish government has refused to grant money to Jehovah’s Witnesses because of the group’s stance against blood transfusions for minors, which the government considers a risk to “individual children’s life and health.” (HFD at 7.)  This in turn violates the requirement in the Act that the organization must contribute to upholding and strengthen the fundamental values of Swedish society.  (HFD at 7.)  According to the Act’s legislative history, “upholding fundamental principles of [the Swedish] society includes operating with respect for all peoples’ equal value and contributing to developing norms in society that are compatible with that of democracy … .  The organization should also work to develop the conditions for equality between women and men.”  (HFD at 8.)

The Court’s Ruling

The Court noted that religious freedom is internationally protected and that any limitation must be a based on “serious and compelling reasons,” as prescribed in the European Convention on Human Rights. (HFD at 10.)  The European Court of Justice has identified some limitations on religious freedom that do not violate the European Convention on Human Rights, such as prohibitions against “polygamy, child marriages, flagrant crimes against the equality between the sexes and acts forced upon members of a religious organization against their will.”  (HFD at 11; Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Nov. 4,1950, as amended), European Court of Human Rights website.)

The Court found that there is a presumption in Swedish case law (established in HFD 2011 ref 10) that all applicant organizations subscribe to the fundamental values of Sweden. (HFD at 10-11.)  Thus, the burden of proof rests with the government to prove that the organization in question does not support these values.  (Id.)

The Court observed that Swedish law has long recognized that a patient has an unrestricted right to refrain from medical treatment. (HFD at 12.)  By statute, “healthcare as a rule cannot be provided without the consent of the patient.”  (Id.; 4 ch. 2 § Patientlagen SFS 2014:821.)  Therefore, the Court argued, a personal choice not to accept blood transfusions would not violate the fundamental values of Swedish society; rather, that choice is part of the fundamental value that medical decisions belong to the patient.  (HFD at 12.) Moreover, parents have the right to object to certain treatments on behalf of their children.  (HFD at 13.)  The Court further observed that  Swedish law provides for a system whereby the state can take over the health responsibility of a child (by means of compulsory care under the law on forced treatment of youths) from the parents, and Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage parents, if this happens, to cooperate with the state.  It therefore concluded that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ position against blood transfusions for minors does not violate fundamental Swedish principles.  (HFD at 13; Lag med Särskilda Bestämmelser om Vård av Unga [Act on Special Provisions on Care of Youths [LVU] (SFS 1990:52), LAGEN.NU.)

One judge dissented and argued that the fact that children belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses have been subject to “compulsory care” by the state for medical reasons demonstrates that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not subscribe to the fundamental principles required to receive state funding.  (HFD at 17.)

Aftermath of the Court Decision

The ruling sends the application back to the government, which will have to make a new decision consistent with the verdict. (HFD at 13-14.) If there are no reasons other than the practice of refusing children’s blood transfusions to deny the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ application for funding, the application should be granted.  (HFD at 13-14.)

Religious organizations may soon see another set of rules apply, however, as the Swedish government is researching a new law on state funding of faith-based organizations; a report is expected to be issued in March 2018.  (Översyn av statens stöd till trossamfund [Review of State Funding for Religious Organizations], REGERINGSKANSLIET (June 30, 2016).) Among the reasons for the review is to evaluate whether the government should withdraw funding when it is discovered that the faith-based organization receiving the grant has developed in a non-democratic direction. (Kommittédirektiv (Dir. 2016:62), Översyn av statens stöd till trossamfund, KULTURDEPARTEMENTET (June 30, 2016), at 3.) Moreover, the committee reviewing the state-funding program has been asked by the Department of Culture to look at ways to make the law more religiously neutral by using language other than “ceremony and service” ( gudstjänst).  (Id. at 6.)  The committee was also directed to propose language that would permit the recovery of funds that have been used to fund non-democratic ideas.  (Id.)

Several Members of the Swedish Parliament (Sveriges Riskdag), representing five out of seven political groups, have previously voiced similar concerns and objected to the funding of religious organizations that promote gender inequality and discrimination against sexual minorities.  (Fel att skattepengar går till hederskultur [Wrong that Tax Funds Honor Cultures], AFTONBLADET (Feb. 25, 2016).)

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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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Indonesia: Asset Recovery Legislation Proposed

(Feb. 22, 2017) Indonesia’s Commission on Eradication of Corruption (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi, or KPK) and its Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (Pusat Pelaporan dan Analisi Transaki Keuangan, or PPATK) are advocating that the legislature pass several anti-corruption laws.  (Anti-Graft Agency Pushes for Long-Delayed Asset Recovery Bill, JAKARTA GLOBE (last visited Feb. 16, 2017).)  One of the proposals is legislation on recovery of criminal assets.  Although it is listed in the national legislative program on the legislature’s website, no action has as yet been taken on the proposed law.  (Id.; RUU Tentang Perampasan Aset Tindak Pidana [Proposed Law on Recovery of Criminal Assets], Program Legislasi Nasional, No. 44, Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat [House of Representatives] website (last visited Feb. 16, 2017).)  According to Ahmad Badaruddin, the Chairman of the PPATK, Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, has already approved the idea of the asset recovery legislation.  (Anti-Graft Agency Pushes for Long-Delayed Asset Recovery Bill, supra.)  The Chairman of the KPK, Laode M. Syarief, said that the proposed law “is crucial.  We need to have the authority to seize or take over assets from corruption or money laundering. … If the bill is passed into law, it will greatly help the police, prosecutors, KPK and PPATK.”  (Id.)

Background on the Institutions

According to the mission statement on its webpage, the KPK’s purpose is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement and reduce corruption in Indonesia through coordination, supervision, monitoring, prevention, and prosecution.  (Visi KPK 2015-2019 [Vision of the KPK for 2015-2019 ], KPK website (last visited Feb. 21, 2017).)  The KPK was established by Law No. 30 of 2002.  (Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 30 Tahun 2002 Tentang Komisi Pemberantasan Tindak Pidana Korupsi [Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 30, 2002, Concerning the Commission on Eradication of Corruption] (Dec. 27, 2002), House of Representatives website.)

The PPATK’s website notes that it “is the central institution … which coordinates the implementation of the prevention and eradication of money laundering in Indonesia.”  (Sambutan Kepala PPATK [Message from the Head of PPATK], PPATK website, (last visited Feb. 21, 2017).)  The institution is governed by Law No. 8 of 2010.  (Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 8 Tahun 2010 Tentang Pencegahan Dan Pemberantasan Tindak Pidana Pencucian Uang [Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 8, 2010, Concerning Crime Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering] (Oct. 22, 2010), House of Representatives website.)

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