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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.

Italy: Legislation on Local Government in Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region

(Aug. 25, 2016) On August 23, 2016, new legislation permitting Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region (F-VGR) to create new local government entities called “metropolitan cities” entered into effect. (Constitutional Law No. 1 of July 28, 2016, Amending the Special Statute of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region, Regulated by Constitutional Law No. 1 of January 31, 1963, Concerning Local Entities, the Electors in Regional Elections, and Popular Initiatives (C. L. No. 1, 2016), GAZETTA UFFICIALE (G.U.), No. 184 (Aug. 8, 2016), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)

Significance of Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region

The territory of Italy is divided into 20 regions and further into provinces and municipalities. Five of the regions, including F-VGR, are considered “autonomous.” (Regions of Italy in Map, MAPS OF THE WORLD (last visited Aug. 25, 2016).)  The F-VGR was first designated as an autonomous region under Constitutional Law No. 1 of 1963.  (Constitutional Law No. 1 of January 31, 1963 (C.L. No. 1, 1963), G.U. No. 29 (Feb. 1, 1963), art. 1, NORMATTIVA .)

The region enjoys a key location within Italy as an important connecting route between the eastern and western areas of southern Europe and recently has figured as part of the migration route taken by migrants from the Maghreb and elsewhere in North Africa to northern Europe. (Friuli Venezia Giulia, LIFE IN ITALY (June 1, 2012); Programma Immigrazione, REGIONE AUTONOMA FRIULI-VENEZIA GIULIA REGION (last visited Aug. 25, 2016).)

Creation of Metropolitan Cities Within the F-VGR

Constitutional Law No. 1 of 2016 broadens the scope of the regional authorities’ power to legislate the creation of new “metropolitan cities” (Citta’ metropolitane) in the autonomous F-VGR, supplementing their power to establish regular new cities (communi). (Id. art. 2.)  Being designated a “metropolitan city” means that more financial resources and a larger political role at the regional level are accorded to this new category of urban administration.

The Law also authorizes the central government to delegate powers to metropolitan cities in addition to the existing powers that may be delegated to the region, provinces, and regular cities. (Id. art. 3.)  The revenues of metropolitan cities are to be determined by local laws.  (Id. art. 7.)  Under the amendment, the Regional Council may assign annually a quota of the region’s revenue to metropolitan cities.  (Id. art. 8.)  The new legislation states that all cities, including metropolitan cities, have their own administrative powers and also enjoy the administrative powers granted by national or regional laws.  (Id. art. 4.)

Other Features of the Amendment

The amending Law modifies the minimum age for eligibility to become a member of the Regional Electoral College from 25 years to “the age of majority,” that is 18 years of age. (Id. art. 5.)  It also reduces the minimum number of citizens’ signatures required for a legislative initiative from 15,000 to 5,000.  (Id. art. 6.)

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Venezuela: Prohibition of Use of Cellular Phones and Internet by Inmates

(Aug. 25, 2016) The Venezeulan Congress recently passed the Law Regulating the Use of Cellular Phones and the Internet Inside Penitentiaries, prohibiting the use of cellular phones and the Internet in prisons. The Law imposes a penalty of three to five years of imprisonment on anyone who introduces cellular phones or Internet-ready devices in prisons. The penalty increases to four to six years if those devices were made available by officials or public employees. (Gaceta Oficial: Ley que Prohíbe Uso de Celulares e Internet en Cárceles, EL UNIVERSAL (July 19, 2016); Ley que Regula el Uso de la Telefonía Celular y la Internet en el Interior de los Establecimientos Penitenciarios, GACETA OFICIAL No. 6.240 Extraordinario (July 15, 2016).)

The Law is designed to prevent the planning, direction, and perpetration of crimes committed from inside prisons through the use of cellular phones, the Internet, and any voice and data services offered by telecommunications companies allowing coordination and communication with other criminals in the streets. (Id. art. 1.) The Law will apply to all penitentiaries with closed systems, holding inmates already convicted of crimes and those awaiting sentencing. (Id art. 2.)

In order to secure means of external communication for the inmates, penitentiaries throughout the country will install public land-line phones. (Id. art. 7.) The Ministry of Penitentiary Services will also install devices that will block telecommunications signals without affecting the communities neighboring prisons. (Id. arts. 3 & 4.)

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Samoa: Citizenship Act Amended to Allow Second Generation Samoans Overseas to Claim Citizenship

(Aug. 24, 2016) On August 23, 2016, the Samoan Legislative Assembly (the unicameral Parliament of Samoa) passed a bill that enables people born outside the country who have at least one grandparent who is or was a Samoan citizen to be granted citizenship.  (Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 & Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016: Explanatory Memorandum, Parliament of Samoa website; Bills: 1.01 Bills Considered in Detail and Third Read by the Assembly, LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF SAMOA PROCEDURAL & STATISTICAL DIGEST, No. 23 (Aug. 23, 2016), Parliament of Samoa website.)  The current law, the Citizenship Act 2004, allows only those who, at the time of their birth, have at least one Samoan citizen parent (who must be a citizen otherwise than by descent and have resided in Samoa for at least three years) to claim citizenship by descent.  (Citizenship Act 2004, s 7, Consolidated Acts of Samoa 2015, Pacific Legal Information Institute website.)

The Citizenship Amendment Bill amends the relevant provision in the Citizenship Act to state that a person born outside of Samoa is a citizen by descent provided that, at the time of the person’s birth, “at least 1 parent or grandparent of the person is or was a Samoan citizen.”  (Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016, cl 2.)  The residency requirement is not changed and will apply to either the parent or grandparent.  The bill includes a transitional provision that enables those born before the amendment comes into force to claim citizenship.  (Id. cl 3.)  This means that applications that “are pending with the Ministry [of the Prime Minister and Cabinet] awaiting enactment of the Bill” are covered.  (Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016: Explanatory Memorandum, supra.)

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, stated that the amendments are “intended to permit non-citizen Samoan descendants to represent Samoa in various sporting events,” and that the current law affected the number of athletes able to represent Samoa at the 2016 Rio Olympics.  (Lanuola Tusani Tupufia, Law Passed with No Objections, SAMOA OBSERVER (Aug. 24, 2016).)  He also noted, “[w]ith the increase of Samoan [rugby] league players taking up contracts in England, there had been an increase in request [sic] for Samoan citizenship by overseas Samoan descendant [sic] to enable them to represent Samoa when possible … that is the whole gist of the amendment is to reach out to Samoans born overseas who want to represent our country to make Samoa known to the world.”  (Id.)

During committee hearings on the bill, one member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Va’ai, raised concerns that the amendments would allow wealthy foreign investors who are granted citizenship to bring their descendants to Samoa and that such citizens could stand in general elections under current laws.  (Id.)  Another member, however, supported the amendments and questioned “why the lineage entitlement was limited to one’s grandparents and not extended to great grandparents.”  (Id.)  The committee chairperson responded that such an extension could lead to unforeseen complications.  (Id.)

Samoa’s immigration website states that “Samoan citizenship entitles individuals to a range of privileges in Samoa.”  (Samoan Citizenship, SAMOA IMMIGRATION, Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website (last visited Aug. 24, 2016).)  These privileges include:

  • the ability to purchase land;
  • the right to vote in General Elections;
  • the right to obtain Samoan travel documentation;
  • the ability to represent Samoa in sporting events;
  • the right to claim pension;
  • easier access to employment opportunities;
  • the right to apply for educational scholarships; and
  • cheaper health care.  (Id.)

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ICC/Mali: First Guilty Plea in War Crimes Case

(Aug. 24, 2016) On August 22, 2016, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, described as a jihadist from Mali, pleaded guilty at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to destroying historical and religious monuments, which is a war crime. He is the first person ever to plead guilty to a charge at that court. (Malian Jihadist Pleads Guilty at ICC to Timbuktu Attacks, AFP (Aug. 22, 2016), Open Source Enterprise online subscription database, No. AFR2016082235965085.) The ruling in his case will be issued on September 27, 2016. (Highlights, ICC website (last visited Aug. 24, 2016).) On September 18, 2015, a warrant of arrest was issued for al-Mahdi; he was surrendered to the ICC on September 26. On March 1, 2016, he expressed his willingness to admit his guilt, and the charges against him were confirmed on March 24, 2016, in ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I. (Press Release, ICC, Al Mahdi Case: Accused Makes an Admission of Guilt at Trial Opening (Aug. 22, 2016).)

The case of The Prosecutor v. Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is being heard in Trial Chamber VIII of the ICC in The Hague, with Presiding Judge Paul C. Pangalangan, Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, and Judge Bertram Schmitt. The crime to which al-Mahdi pleaded guilty was destruction of historical and religious monuments in the city of Timbuktu, Mali, from June 30 to July 11, 2012. In addition to being the first instance of someone pleading guilty at the ICC, it is the first international case to focus on the demolition of monuments. (Id.)

Specifically, al-Mahdi is accused of directing attacks on nine famous mausoleums and the Sidi Yahia mosque in Timbuktu, Mali. He was a member of Ansar Dine, a movement that together with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb took over Timbuktu in 2012. Founded centuries ago by Tuareg tribes, Timbuktu has been called the “city of 333 saints” because it is the burial site of many Muslim sages, and it is well-known as an historical center of Islamic erudition, particularly in the 15th and 16th centuries, considered the golden age of the location. It has been designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site, but jihadist groups considered it “idolatrous.” (Malian Jihadist Pleads Guilty at ICC to Timbuktu Attacks, supra.)

After the charge was read, the accused said, “[y]our honour, regrettably I have to say that what I heard so far is accurate and reflects the events. I plead guilty.” (Id.) Following this statement, the ICC judges questioned al-Mahdi to be sure that he understood the consequences of the plea and that it had been made voluntarily, after consultation with his attorney. The prosecution then began what is expected to be two to three days of presentation of the case against al-Mahdi. The defense will be able to present witnesses, including statements on possible sentences, before the judges make their final ruling. (Press Release, supra.)

Defense attorney Mohamed Aouini earlier stated that the accused seeks a pardon for his actions and that he is “a Muslim who believes in justice. … He wants to be truthful to himself and he wants to admit [to] the acts that he has committed.” (Malian Jihadist Pleads Guilty at ICC to Timbuktu Attacks, supra.) A different view was expressed by ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who stated that cultural destruction such as that which occurred in Timbuktu “is tantamount to an assault on people’s history. It robs future generations of their landmarks and their heritage. … No one who destroys that which embodies the very soul and the roots of a people through such crimes should be allowed to escape justice.” (Id.)

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Papua New Guinea: Changes to Marriage Laws to be Introduced

(Aug. 23, 2016) On August 22, 2016, it was reported that the Papua New Guinea government will soon introduce legislation to amend the country’s marriage and divorce laws.  (Nellie Setepano, PNG Marriage Laws to Be Amended as Part of Reform Bundle to Legally Recognize Traditional Marriage and Protect Minors, PNG POST-COURIER (Aug. 22, 2016).)  Two bills, the Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Matrimonial (Clauses) Bill 2015, were discussed at a child protection workshop in the capital, Port Moresby, which was attended by Religion, Youth and Community Development Secretary Anna Solomon.  (Id.)  It appears that these bills would amend the Marriage Act 1963 and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1963.  (Marriage Act 1963 & Matrimonial Causes Act 1963, Pacific Legal Information Institute website.)

The news report stated that proposed clauses 2A and 2B of Matrimonial (Clauses) Bill 2015 contain a definition of marriage that would be applicable to both customary and non-customary marriages, with the goal of ensuring that all marriages “meet certain basic requirements regarding consent and marriage age.”  (Setepano, supra.)  Currently, the Marriage Act 1963 recognizes customary marriages as valid and excludes them from certain statutory requirements, including the minimum age requirements.  (Marriage Act 1963, ss 3 & 6(3).)  The amendments would also set a new standard minimum age for all marriages at 18 years; the Marriage Act 1963 currently contains a marriageable age of 18 years for men and 16 years for women, with judges able to allow marriages involving boys aged 16 years and a girls aged 14 years.  (Id. s 7.)

The news report noted that the minimum age of 18 years would make the marriage law consistent with the Lukautim Pikinini Act 2015 (child protection legislation), which included provisions that made marriage of minors under 18 years of age illegal.  (Setepanosupra; Under-Age Marriage Ban in PNG, PNG POST-COURIER (Mar. 12, 2015); Michael Walsh, PNG Anti-Child Marriage Bill Expected to Pass, ABC NEWS (May 31, 2015).)  Under the new marriage law amendments, the penalties for persons who force an underage marriage would include fines between K10,000 and K20,000 (about US$3,200-$6,400) and prison terms of between five and seven years.  (Setepano, supra.)

Other changes discussed at the workshop include greater recognition in the divorce law of the contributions of stay-at-home spouses.  Under the proposals, “a spouse’s indirect contributions as home-maker to the economic stability and security of the family, including in particular the acquisition of the property, will be recognised.  The court is required to take into account any financial and non-financial contribution made by a party to the marriage.”  (Id.)

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