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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.

The Netherlands: Digitization of Legal System

(July 29, 2016) On July 12, 2016, the Dutch Senate (Eerste Kamer) adopted four pieces of legislation that will implement the digitization of the legal system in the Netherlands. The new provisions will be implemented in phases, beginning in early 2017.  (Senate Votes in Favour of Digitisation of Legal System, Ministry of Security and Justice website (July 12, 2016); KEI, Eerste Kamer website (last visited July 27, 2016) (in Dutch) (has links to each item of legislation).) The legislation establishes the Quality and Innovation in the Legal System Program (“KEI programme”), a collaborative undertaking of the Ministry of Security and Justice and the judiciary aimed at both digitizing and simplifying civil and administrative proceedings and at creating “a more accessible legal system, a system that can work faster and [be] better able to provide custom solutions.”  (Senate Votes in Favour of Digitisation of Legal System, supra.)

Under the new system, litigants can submit civil and administrative case procedural documents, such as divorce petitions, payment dispute documents, or permit dispute documents, in digital form for assessment by the court. (Id.)  The legislation furthers transparency of proceedings by enabling litigants to access a digital file (Mijn Zaak) that allows them to follow all the steps in the process.  (Id.)  It is expected that lawyers, who often still communicate by fax, according to the Ministry of Security and Justice, will benefit from digital communication with the court.  Citizens involved in lawsuits who do not have lawyers will still be able, however, to conduct proceedings in paper format.  (Id.)

In regard to simplification of civil procedures, the basic proceedings will be “one written round and one oral hearing before the court, followed by a judgment,” with the oral hearing occurring early in the process, so that the judge meets with the parties at an early stage to obtain more information, hear witnesses, and so on. (Id.)  A judgment will typically be rendered within six weeks after the oral hearing, but the judge will be able to supplement the basic proceedings in complicated cases with an additional written or oral round.  (Id.)

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Italy: Right to Interpretation and Translation in Criminal Proceedings

(July 29, 2016) On July 29, 2016, new legislation on the right to interpretation and translation services in criminal proceedings entered into effect in Italy. (Legislative Decree No. 129 of June 23, 2016, Implementing EU Directive 2010/64/UE on the Right to Interpretation and Translation in Criminal Procedures, GAZETTA UFFICIALE, No. 163 (July 14, 2016), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).) The new legislation seeks to facilitate the provision of these services, free of charge, to parties involved in criminal cases. For instance, when an interpreter or translator resides outside the territorial jurisdiction in which a proceeding is being conducted, the judge will facilitate the court appearance of the interpreter or translator. (Id. art. 1(1).)

The law also provides that, when needed, the accused has the right to the assistance of an interpreter for conferences with defense counsel. (Id. art. 2(1)(a)(1).) This right also applies where the nature of the criminal proceedings requires multiple conferences between the accused and his or her counsel. (Id. art. 2(1)(a)(1).)

In addition, when it is not possible to promptly obtain a written translation of relevant procedural acts, the presiding judge may order that oral translation or interpretation, even in summary form, be performed simultaneously with the preparation of the written minutes. (Id. art. 2(1)(a)(2).) The accused may waive the right to such a written translation when he or she is aware of the consequences of the waiver after consulting with defense counsel. (Id. art. 2(1)(a)(3).) A recording of the translation or interpretation must be made, however, regardless of the circumstances. (Id. art. 2(1)(a)(4).) The judge may also authorize the use of communications technology to provide the interpretation or translation. (Id. art. 2(1)(a)(5).)

According to the new law, each tribunal in the country must send an updated list of its authorized interpreters and translators to the Ministry of Justice, so that the Ministry may prepare a national list that may be searched by judges, lawyers, and the police throughout the country. (Id. art. 2(2)(1)&(2).)

Finally, the law provides that the implementation of law’s provisions may not generate new or increased burdens on public finances. (Id. art. 3(1).)

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France/Rwanda: Genocide Convictions

(July 29, 2016) On July 6, 2016, a court in Paris convicted two former local officials of “crimes against humanity,” “genocide,” and “widespread and systematic practice of summary executions” in a “concerted plan aimed at the destruction” of the Tutsi ethnic group. They were sentenced to life in prison. (Génocide rwandais : deux anciens bourgmestres condamnés à perpétuité à Paris [Rwandan Genocide: Two Former Bourgmestres Sentenced to Life by Paris Court], LE MONDE (July 6, 2016).) The convicted persons are 58-year-old Octavien Ngenzi and 65-year-old Tito Barahira, both of whom are former Rwandan bourgmestres (the head of government of a town, the equivalent of a mayor). The crimes occurred in Kabarondo, a village in eastern Rwanda, in April 1994. (Id.)

Background of the Trial

The trial, which lasted two months, took place at the Cour d’assises de Paris (the criminal court of Paris). (Raphaël Reynes, Procès du génocide rwandais: Ngenzi et Barahira condamnés à la prison à vie [Rwandan Genocide Trial : Ngenzi and Barahira Sentenced to Life in Prison], RFI (July 7, 2016).) Barahira’s lawyer, Philippe Meilhac, said that an appeal can be expected. (Célian Macé, Procès Rwanda : deux ex-bourgmestres condamnés pour génocide à la prison à vie [Rwanda Trial: Two Former Bourgmestres Sentenced to Life in Prison for Genocide], LIBÉRATION (July 6, 2016).)

This is the second, and most severe, sentence handed down by a French court in connection with the 1994 massacres in Rwanda. (Génocide rwandais, supra.) The first conviction of this kind took place in 2014, when former Rwandan spy chief Pascal Simbikangwa, then 54 years old, was convicted of “complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity” and sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment. (Rwanda Ex-Spy Chief Pascal Simbikangwa Jailed in France, BBC NEWS (Mar. 14, 2014).)

Jurisdiction of French Courts over Rwandan Alleged Criminals

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established in 1995 to prosecute persons allegedly responsible for the genocide, but its operations ended on December 31, 2015. (The ICTR in Brief, UNITED NATIONS MECHANISM FOR INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS (last visited July 25, 2016).)

A 1996 law allowed French courts to assert jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed in Rwanda. (Law 96-432 of May 22, 1996, Adapting French Legislation to the Provisions of Resolution 955 of the United Nations Security Council Establishing an International Tribunal to Prosecute Persons Deemed Responsible for Acts of Genocide or Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in 1994 in the Territory of Rwanda and, in Cases Involving Rwandan Citizens, in the Territory of Neighboring States, LEGIFRANCE (in French).)

Several lawsuits against Rwandan genocide suspects, including Simbikangwa, Ngenzi, and Barahira, have been brought to French courts by the Collectif des parties civiles pour le Rwanda (Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda), a France-based association created in 2001. (Lawsuits by the CPCR, Collectif des parties civiles pour le Rwanda website (last visited July 22, 2016) (in French).)

Prepared by Ricardo Wicker, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Nicolas Boring, Foreign Law Specialist.

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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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