Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

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.

Germany: Regulation to Allow Use of E-scooters on Public Roads Enacted

(June 25, 2019) On June 14, 2019, a regulation was published in Germany’s Federal Law Gazette that allows the use of light electric vehicles on public roads. Light electric vehicles include, among other things, e-scooters and Segways. Riders must use bike lanes or, if none are available, the street. Previously, the use of e-scooters was prohibited in Germany. Segways were allowed under the Mobility Help Regulation, which has been repealed and replaced by the new regulation. (Verordnung über die Teilnahme von Elektrokleinstfahrzeugen am Straßenverkehr und zur Änderung weiterer straßenverkehrsrechtlicher Vorschriften [Elektrokleinstfahrzeugverordung] [Regulation on the Participation of Light Electric Vehicles in Road Traffic] [Light Electric Vehicles Regulation], June 6, 2019, BUNDESGESETZBLATT [BGBl.] [FEDERAL LAW GAZETTE] I at 756, BGBl. website.)

Definition of Light Electric Vehicles

The Light Electric Vehicles Regulation defines light electric vehicles as “motor vehicles with electric drive and a top speed of no less than 6 kmh (3.7 mph) and no more than 20 kmh (15.5 mph) that meet the following criteria:

  • a vehicle without seats or a self-balancing vehicle with or without seats;
  • a handlebar or handrail of at least 500 mm (about 19.7 in.) for motor vehicles with seats and of at least 700 mm (about 27.6 in.) for motor vehicles without seats;
  • continuous rated power of no more than 500 watts, or no more than 1400 watts if at least 60% of the power is used for self-balancing;
  • a total width of no more than 700 mm, a total height of no more than 1400 mm (about 55 in.) and a total length of no more than 2000 mm (about 78.7 in.); and
  • a maximum vehicle mass without driver of no more than 55 kg (about 121 lbs.). (Id. § 1.)

A light electric vehicle is self-balancing if it has built-in electronic balancing, drive, handlebar, and deceleration technology to keep it balanced autonomously.

Requirements for Use on Public Roads

A light electric vehicle may be driven on public roads only if it

  • corresponds to a type for which type approval or individual approval has been issued;
  • has valid insurance for light electric vehicles;
  • has a vehicle identification number and a manufacturer’s data plate that states “light electric vehicle” and lists the top speed and the type approval number or individual approval number for the vehicle; and
  • meets the requirements for deceleration devices, lighting, audible warning, and other safety measures. (Id. § 2.)

Children under 14 years of age are not allowed to ride light electric vehicles. (Id. § 3.)

Riders may use only bike lanes or shared lanes for pedestrians and bikes. If there are none, light electric vehicles may be driven on the street. Public authorities may permit the use of light electric vehicles in other areas on a case-by-case basis or for specific applicants. General permission to use light electric vehicles in such traffic areas must be indicated with a traffic sign “light electric vehicles allowed.” (Id. § 10.)

Rules of Conduct

Riders must drive behind each other, are not allowed to hold onto other driving vehicles, and are prohibited from driving no-handed. (Id. § 11, para. 1.) A turn must be indicated in a timely manner with a hand signal if the light electric vehicle does not a have a blinker. Riders must pay attention to bike traffic and adjust their speed to bike traffic if necessary. (Id. § 11, para. 4.)

Light electric vehicle riders who do not adhere to the rules as outlined in the Light Electric Vehicles Regulation can be fined up to €2,000 (about US$2,244). (Id. § 14; Straßenverkehrsgesetz [StVG] [Road Traffic Act], Mar. 5, 2003, BGBl. I at 310, 919, as amended, § 24, para. 1, sentence 1, German Laws Online website.)

Finally, the general rules for stopping and parking applicable to vehicles apply to light electric vehicles as well. (Light Electric Vehicles Regulation § 9; Straßenverkehrs-Ordnung [StVO] [Road Traffic Regulation], Mar. 6, 2013, BGBl. I at 367, as amended, § 12, German Laws Online website.)

Back to Top

Russian Federation: Experimental E-voting to Be Conducted in Moscow City Duma Elections

(June 24, 2019) On May 29, 2019, the President of the Russian Federation signed a federal law allowing experimental distance electronic voting in the elections of representatives of the Moscow City Duma (state legislature). (Russian Federation Federal Law on Conducting an Experiment on the Organization and Implementation of Remote Electronic Voting in Elections of Deputies of the Moscow City Duma of the Seventh Convocation, FL 103, May 29, 2019, Pravo official legal information website (in Russian).)

As indicated in the Law’s explanatory note, the goal of the Law is to test technological innovations in the election processes with the aim of replicating the experiment in future elections (local and federal) and amending existing elections laws, allowing integration of modern technologies in the electoral processes. (Russian Federation Federal Law on Conducting an Experiment on the Organization and Implementation of Remote Electronic Voting in Elections of Deputies of the Moscow City Duma of the Seventh Convocation, Explanatory Note, State Duma website (in Russian).)

Before FL 103’s enactment, the Moscow City Duma had adopted similar law on May 22, 2019. (Law of the City of Moscow on Conducting an Experiment on the Organization and Implementation of Remote Electronic Voting in Elections of Deputies of the Moscow City Duma of the Seventh Convocation, May 22, 2019, Moscow City Duma website (in Russian).)

The new e-voting will be conducted on September 8, 2019—the Moscow City Duma election day—in three out of 45 single-mandate districts of the Moscow City Duma. (Moscow City Election Commission, Resolution No. 95/5 on Distant Electronic Voting in the Course of the Moscow City Duma Election on September 8, 2019 (June 13, 2019), Moscow City Election Commission website (in Russian).)

FL 103 defines remote electronic voting as casting a paperless ballot utilizing special software of the regional portal of the state and municipal services of the City of Moscow.  (FL 103, art. 2.)

The new Law also establishes the authority of election commissions to carry out the experimental e-voting. (Id. art. 4.) Some of the key provisions concerning e-voting procedures are as follows:

  • The Moscow City Election Commission is to determine in which single-mandate electoral districts the e-voting will be held. (Id.)
  • The Territorial Election Commission is to establish one polling station and a Precinct Election Commission for electronic voting. (Id.)
  • The Precinct Election Commission provides for distance electronic voting, including the voting carried out on the premises of the Precinct Electoral Commission for electronic voting; reports the results of the distance electronic voting to the district electoral commission; and shares the results of the report with election observers. (Id.)
  • The procedures and standards for verifying e-voting results and reporting by the Precinct Electoral Commission are spelled out in the Law of the City of Moscow on Conducting Experimental E-voting. (Law of the City of Moscow on Conducting an Experiment on the Organization and Implementation of Remote Electronic Voting art. 10.)
  • FL 103 authorizes the Precinct Election Commission to review complains and grievances with regard to distance electronic voting. (FL 103, art. 4.)

In order to be able to vote remotely, voters must submit an application to the Moscow City Election Commission in accordance with the order established by the Moscow City Election Commission, utilizing special software issued by the regional and municipal services of the City of Moscow. (Id. art. 3, § 5.) Submitting an application for electronic distance voting does not preclude voters from participating in nonelectronic voting. Voters also have the right to withdraw their application and vote in person. (Id. art. 3, § 6.)

Blockchain technologies are envisaged for use in the Moscow City Duma’s distance electronic voting. According to Dmitrii Vyatkin, a legislator who coauthored the Law, the voting is to take place via the mos.ru portal, where most Muscovites are registered. To access the system, voters also need to provide a unique code sent to them via text message. Technology will enable separate storage of voters’ personal data and election results, thus ensuring the secrecy of the vote. (Electronic Voting in Moscow State Duma Elections Will Be Protected by Blockchain Technology, TASS (Feb. 26, 2019) (in Russian).)

The Russian Federation is not the first country in the region to introduce e-voting. Estonia also uses e-voting, which it instituted in 2005. (I-voting, E-ESTONIA (last visited June 20, 2019).) However, the Estonian system differs from the Russian system. Under the Estonian system, voters can cast as many ballots as they want during the designated pre-voting period, with each new vote cancelling out the previous one. Thus, voters have the option of changing their votes before the final voting on election day. (Id.) In addition, voters in the Estonian system do not apply in person to the electoral commission to verify their identity and gain access to the e-voting system. (Id.) The personal data of Estonian voters are stored on personal digital identification documents that allow voters to access e-government services, including voting. (Id.) The Estonian e-voting system also enables voters to cast their vote from any computer or electronic device connected to the internet without the need to use specialized software or obtain a special code to access the portal.

Back to Top

Lebanon: Government Undertakes National Anticorruption Campaign

(June 24, 2019) On March 13, 2019, in a response to media and social network reports of ongoing major corruption investigations of judges and lawyers, Lebanon’s minister of justice, Albert Sarhan, confirmed to the National News Agency that he is coordinating and keeping abreast of these investigations aimed at rooting out corruption in the judiciary and other relevant institutions. (Minister of Justice: We Will Work to Eradicate Corruption in the Judiciary and Other Relevant Institutions, NEW TV (Mar. 13, 2019) (in Arabic).)

In accordance with a recommendation from the country’s Judicial Inspection Board, Sarhan has decided to suspend three judges and refer their cases to the Judicial Disciplinary Authority. (Youssef Diab, Anticorruption Measures Spark a War Among Lebanon’s Judges, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (Apr. 2, 2019) (in Arabic).) Notably, the corruption investigations are not limited to junior officers—they have primarily been directed at senior officials, who historically have felt entitled to exploit government resources for their personal benefit yet remain protected from accountability by political and sectarian alliances. (Id.)

In a case involving one of the biggest drug dealers in Lebanon, Sarhan has also authorized the prosecution of six judicial clerks suspected of involvement in obtaining a $600,000 bribe to manipulate the dealer’s judicial file by reducing the charges against him and introducing false medical reports, all in an effort to secure his release. (Youssef Diab, “War on Corruption” Reaches Door of Judiciary: Prosecution Seeks Authorization to Go After Doctors and Lawyers, Aims at Revoking Immunities, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (Mar. 11, 2019) (in Arabic).)

National Anticorruption Commission

Transparency International has documented Lebanon’s serious problems with corruption, ranking it 138th out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index for 2018. (Samar Kadi, Lebanon’s Uphill Battle Against Corruption, ARAB WEEKLY (Feb. 2, 2019) (in Arabic).) This high level of corruption becomes a great obstacle in receiving the international financial support and investment that would mitigate the country’s high public debt and widespread poverty. (Id.)

In an effort to establish a government entity responsible for holding corrupt officials accountable, the Lebanese Parliament’s Committee of Finance and Budget endorsed legislation on December 19, 2018, to establish a National Anticorruption Commission. The Commission is tasked with executing anticorruption laws enacted by the Parliament and overseeing the application of future anticorruption laws yet to be proposed and ratified. (Finance and Budget Committee Approves Proposed Public-Sector Anticorruption Law, LEBANESE PARLIAMENT (Dec. 19, 2018) (in Arabic).) The Commission has the authority to submit for prosecution any corruption violations committed by public officials, as well as impose travel bans on indicted officials and lift the secrecy of their bank accounts. (Id.)

The Parliamentary consensus on the adoption of the Anticorruption Commission law is rather unprecedented, unlike the usual partisanship exhibited in discussing other bills. (Yousef Diab, Lebanon Accelerating Steps to Establish National Anticorruption Commission, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (Mar. 16, 2019) (in Arabic).) So far, the Parliament has passed three anticorruption laws: the Law on the Right to Access Information (January 19, 2017), Law on Protecting Whistleblowers (September 24, 2018), and Law to Fight Corruption in Oil and Gas Contracts (October 10, 2018).

Whistleblowers Protection Law

Since Lebanon’s ratification on October 10, 2006, of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the Lebanese government has been committed to enacting competent laws to translate its treaty obligation into a set of legislative actions. On September 24, 2018, the Lebanese Parliament approved a draft law aimed at protecting whistleblowers and asserting that the disclosure of corruption malfeasance does not constitute a violation of professional confidentiality. The law covers any person who holds a legislative, judicial, executive, administrative, military, or security position, whether appointed or elected, permanent or temporary, paid or unpaid. (Law No. 83 of 2018 on Protecting Whistleblowers art. 1(e), AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYAH [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] vol. 45 (10 Oct. 2018) (in Arabic).)

The Law embraces a narrow definition of corruption as the official exploitation of power, excluding private sector corruption (Id. art. 1.).

Equally important, the Law provides for the protection of whistleblowers from actions that would jeopardize their employment, such as disciplinary proceedings, dismissal, suspension, and demotion. It also calls for the prevention of any personal harm, such as threats or retaliatory actions, to whistleblowers and their family members (id. art. 7), and imposes massive fines on persons responsible for inflicting harm on whistleblowers (id. art. 11).

Notably, the new Law establishes a budget authorization for disbursing funds as a reward to individuals for reporting cases of corruption. (Id. art. 13.) It also authorizes the National Anticorruption Commission to grant rewards if the disclosure leads to the recovery of funds or the prevention of financial loss to a government agency. (Id. art. 14.)

Finally, the Law proscribes the Commission or any of its members from disclosing the identity of whistleblowers without their consent, and designates such disclosure as a criminal offense. On the other hand, the Law permits enlisting whistleblowers as witnesses if they provide their explicit consent. (Id. art. 6.)

This article was written by John Al Saddy, Foreign Law Consultant, under the supervision of Foreign Law Specialist George Sadek.

Back to Top

Back to Top

New Zealand: Court Orders Minister of Justice to Reconsider Extradition Request from China

(June 20, 2019) On June 11, 2019, the New Zealand Court of Appeal released its judgment (Kim v Minister of Justice [2019] NZCA 209) on an appeal of a High Court ruling in a consequential extradition case involving a man who is a citizen of the Republic of Korea and a New Zealand permanent resident. The High Court had refused to judicially review the previous Minister of Justice’s determination that the man, who has been accused of a murder in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), should be surrendered to that country under the Extradition Act 1999. The Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s decision, holding that the current Minister of Justice must reconsider whether to grant the PRC’s extradition request. The case involves the first ever PRC request for extradition of a person from New Zealand.

Background

In a summary released by the Court of Appeal, the background to the case was explained as follows:

In 2011, New Zealand received a request from the People’s Republic of China (the PRC) seeking the extradition of Mr Kim on one count of intentional homicide.  In response, the Minister of Justice sought and received various assurances from the PRC to meet concerns identified by Mr Kim and Ministry officials in connection to the risk of torture, extra-judicial killing and Mr Kim’s right to a fair trial under international law.  The Minister was satisfied that these assurances addressed the risks identified and determined that Mr Kim be surrendered under s 30 of the Extradition Act 1999.

Mr Kim successfully applied to judicially review that decision.  The Minister obtained further assurances in light of the High Court’s findings and reconsidered her decision, determining again that Mr Kim be surrendered to face trial in the PRC.  The Judge refused Mr Kim’s second application for judicial review.  Mr Kim appealed that decision to this Court.

Legislation

Section 30 of the Extradition Act 1999 provides that the Minister of Justice must make a determination, in accordance with that section, as to whether a person who is the subject of a court warrant for detention should be surrendered to the requesting country. If certain conditions are present, the Minister must determine that a person should not be surrendered. These include cases where “it appears to the Minister that there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to an act of torture in the extradition country” (s 30(2)(b)). Discretionary restrictions on surrender also apply under subsection 30(3), including if

(a)  it appears to the Minister that the person may be or has been sentenced to death by the appropriate authority in the extradition country, and the extradition country is unable to sufficiently assure the Minister that—

(i) the person will not be sentenced to death; or
(ii) if that sentence is or has been imposed, it will not be carried out; or

. . .

(d) . . . it appears to the Minister that compelling or extraordinary circumstances of the person including, without limitation, those relating to the age or health of the person, exist that would make it unjust or oppressive to surrender the person; or

(e)  for any other reason the Minister considers that the person should not be surrendered.

Court of Appeal Decision

The Court of Appeal states in paragraph 14 of its judgment that, while the above provisions do not expressly provide for consideration of whether an individual will receive a fair trial,

it is common ground, on the facts of this case, that s 30(3)(e) requires the Minister to address the issue of fair trial rights in the PRC when making the surrender decision. That is because that section and the powers conferred under it must be interpreted, to the extent its wording permits, in a manner consistent with New Zealand’s obligations under international law.

The appellant put forward several grounds of appeal, set out in paragraph 44 of the judgment, including that the High Court judge had erred in “holding that the Minister could lawfully and reasonably rely upon diplomatic assurances as a means of reducing the risk that Mr Kim would be tortured” or as “an adequate protection against the risk of the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty”; failing to address the absence of any assurance addressing the risk of extrajudicial killing; and upholding the Minister’s decision that surrender of the appellant to the PRC would not result in a flagrant breach of his right to a fair trial.

Among the key findings of the Court of Appeal, as set out in the summary referred to above, were the following:

Issue Three: Did the Minister err in accepting assurances in relation to torture as adequate to protect Mr Kim on return to the PRC?

Held: Yes. While it was relevant for the Minister to ascertain whether Mr Kim was in a class of defendants at “high risk” of torture in the PRC, it was not reasonably open to the Minister to conclude on the evidence before her that Mr Kim, as a murder accused, was not at high risk.  In upholding this the Judge erred. The Judge also erred in finding no error in the Minister’s conclusion that certain factors, such as location of trial, reduced Mr Kim’s risk of torture because there was a lack of evidence on this point. Finally the Judge erred in failing to identify deficiencies in the Minister’s consideration of the adequacy of assurances given the information that torture remains widespread in the PRC and that torture is difficult to detect.

. . .

Issue Six: Did the Minister apply an incorrect legal standard when determining whether Mr Kim’s right to a fair trial would be upheld?

Held: Yes. This Court has reservations as to the Othman (Abu Qatada) v United Kingdom test of “flagrant denial of justice”, as it involves such a departure from standards so as to amount to a nullification or destruction of fair trial rights guaranteed by international law. Rather, a more appropriate threshold is whether there is a “real risk of a departure from the standard such as to deprive the defendant of a key benefit of the right in question”.  [Once] a person establishes a “real risk”, it is for the requesting state to dispel any doubts.

Issue Seven: Did the Minister err in concluding that there was no risk of departure from fair trial standards justifying refusal of surrender?

Yes. The assurance that Mr Kim would be tried in accordance with domestic law did not meet the concern that he would not be tried before an independent tribunal, a right guaranteed under international law. The evidence before the Judge, and Minister, was that [the] PRC’s criminal justice system prioritises stability and crime control over procedural rights, and is subject to political influence. There was insufficient evidence before the Minister in relation to disclosure, the status of the defence bar and the right to examine prosecution witnesses for the Minister to reasonably conclude there was no real risk to a departure from fair trial standards in Mr Kim’s case.

Issue Eight: Did the Minister err in making the decision to surrender Mr Kim notwithstanding the absence of assurance addressing the risk of disproportionate punishment?

Held: Yes. As a matter of sentencing methodology and considering international legal obligations, it would be a disproportionately severe, or cruel and degrading, punishment should time served in custody in the arresting state not be deducted from the finite sentence of imprisonment in the PRC.  There was evidence before the Minister of PRC officials previously providing assurances to this effect. Against this background, the Court considered the Judge erred in finding no reviewable error.

The Court’s conclusions were also summarized in paragraph 275 of its judgment. As a result of these findings, the Court quashed the Minister’s decision to surrender the appellant to the PRC under section 30 of the Extradition Act and directed the Minister to reconsider the issue, including addressing the following matters set out in paragraph 278 of the judgment:

(a) Whether the general human rights situation in the PRC suggests that the value of the human rights recognised under the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture are not understood and/or valued, and further, if they are, whether the rule of law in the PRC is sufficient to secure those rights.

(b) The Minister is to make further inquiry as to whether murder accused are at high-risk, or higher risk, than the notional ordinary criminal.

(c) The Minister should not treat the fact that Mr Kim will be tried in Shanghai, the stage of the investigation, or the strength of the case against Mr Kim as reducing the risk of torture, unless further inquiries provide a sufficient evidential basis for proceeding on that basis.

(d) In assessing the effectiveness of the assurances to address the risk of torture, the Minister must address such evidence as there is that:

(i) torture is already against the law, yet persists;
(ii) the evidence is that practice of torture in the PRC is concealed and that its use can be difficult to detect;
(iii) videotaping of interrogations is selective and torture often occurs outside the recorded sessions;
(iv) evidence obtained by torture is regularly admitted in court; and
(v) there are substantial disincentives for anyone, including the detained person, reporting the practice of torture.

(e) When addressing the issue of the risk that Mr Kim will not receive a fair trial in the PRC should he be surrendered, the Minister should:

(i) seek further information in connection with the extent to which the judiciary is subject to political control, and the extent to which tribunals that did not hear persons, or groups, or tribunals that did not hear the case, control or influence decisions of guilt or innocence;
(ii) seek further information as to the position of the defence bar in the PRC, the right the defence has to disclosure of the case to be met, and the right to examine witnesses; and
(iii) seek further assurances that Mr Kim will be entitled to disclosure of the case against him (detailed as to timing and content), that he will have the right, through counsel, to question all witnesses, and the right to the presence of effective defence counsel during all interrogation.

(f) The Minister should address the risk that Mr Kim will be sentenced to a finite term of imprisonment and receive no credit for time already served in New Zealand. Relevant to consideration of this issue will be any assurances the Minister is able to obtain in relation to this.

Back to Top