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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.

Tunisia: Government Lifts Ban on Inter-Religious Marriages

(Sept. 19, 2017) On September 14, 2017, the Tunisian government lifted a ban on inter-religious marriages between Muslim Tunisian females and non-Muslim males. (Tunisia Lifts Ban on Muslim Women Marrying Non-Muslims, AL JAZEERA (Sept. 14, 2017).) This measure was issued by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi.  During his speech on the national Women’s Day that took place on August 13, 2017, Essebsi had proposed amendments to the provisions governing rules of inheritance and marriage contracts in the Personal Status Law of 1956. (Ahmed Nadhif, Tunisian President Calls for Gender Equality in Inheritance Law, AL-MONITOR (Aug. 21, 2017); Order of 13 August 1956, 66 AL RAA’D AL RASMI [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] (Aug. 17, 1956) (in Arabic).)

Essebsi proposed the repeal of the inheritance provision that grants men the right to inherit twice as much as women and adoption of a new provision that allows women to inherit on an equal basis with men.  Furthermore, he suggested the abolishment of the provision that bans inter-religious marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.  It has already been legal for Muslim men to marry outside their religion.  (Essebsi Calls for the Modification of a Piece of Legislation Banning Tunisian Women from Marrying Non-Muslims, MOSAIQUEFM (Aug. 13, 2017) (in Arabic).)

Reactions to the Proposed Amendments

The statement of the President sparked widespread opposition among religious groups, which argued that it is in direct violation of Islamic law because it is Islamic law that governs such family matters. In a joint statement, Islamist political groups claimed that allowing inter-religious marriages and granting equal portions of inheritance to females conflict with the Quran and the main principles of Islamic Shari’a law.  (Nawal Sayed, Tunisian Opposition Call for Ouster of President Essebsi, EGYPT TODAY (Aug. 16, 2017).)

On the other hand, individuals supporting Essebsi contend that his approach towards inter-religious marriages and female inheritance adheres to provision 21 of the Tunisian Constitution of 2014. (Nadhif, supra.) Article 21 provides that “all citizens, male and female, have equal rights and duties, and are equal before the law without any discrimination.” (Tunisia’s Constitution of 2014, CONSTITUTE PROJECT (unofficial English translation).) Essebsi’s supporters say that the proposed amendments are also in line with article 46 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “the state commits to protect women’s accrued rights and works to strengthen and develop those rights” and”[t]he state guarantees the equality of opportunities between women and men to have access to all levels of responsibility in all domains.”  (Id. art. 46; Nadhif, supra.)

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Israel: Parliament Establishes New Department for Government Oversight

(Sept. 19, 2017) A special parliamentary unit for oversight of governmental actions was recently established in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). The Knesset Unit for Parliamentary Oversight (KATEF, based on the Hebrew acronym, which also means “shoulder(s)” in Hebrew).  (Press Release, The Knesset Establishes a Unit for Coordination and Oversight of the Government (Sept. 30, 2017), Knesset website  (in Hebrew).)

KATEF will operate in coordination with the Knesset’s committees, legal department, and Information and Research Center (KIRC) and with government offices. KATEF’s work will be guided equally by the coalition majority and the opposition. Former KIRC head Dr. Shirely Avrami will head KATEF, which will operate directly under the Knesset Director General.  (Id.)

KATEF’s establishment follows several hearings by a Knesset House Committee on examining ways to strengthen the Knesset’s oversight of the government. Among concerns raised at a May 24, 2017, hearing were the non-compliance of government officials with requests to appear before Knesset committees and the exorbitant number of private member bills filed.  (Reformation of the Relations Between the Government and the Knesset, House Committee website (May 24, 2017) (in Hebrew).)

Among other possible actions, KATEF is expected to address concerns about the government’s sometime lack of issuance of implementing regulations for Knesset legislation, resulting, in the view of the Knesset House Speaker, in weakening the status of the Knesset. (Gideon Alon, Knesset: The Responsibility Is on the Shoulders, YISRAEL HAYOM (July 23, 2017) (in Hebrew).)

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Kyrgyzstan: Court Denies Ballot Petition of Opposition Leader

(Sept. 12, 2017) On August 31, 2017, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan upheld a lower court’s rejection of a petition to list opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev on the presidential election ballot this October. (Elizabeth Lowman, Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court Rejects Petition to Put Imprisoned Opposition Leader on Ballot, PAPER CHASE (Aug. 31, 2017).)  Although a petition was  submitted with about 39,000 signatures in support of Tekebaev’s nomination, well over the  30,000 required, the Central Election Commission had contended that the signatures were not valid because his election fund did not cover the expenses of collecting the signatures.  (Id.)

Background

Tekebaev was placed in pre-trial detention in February 2017, with his detention confirmed by the Supreme Court in March, on charges of bribery, charges his supporters say are politically motivated. (Kyrgyz Supreme Court Upholds Detention of Opposition Leader, RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY (Mar. 29, 2017).) He was subsequently convicted and is now serving an eight-year term of imprisonment. (Lowman, supra.)

Relevant Law

Under Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution, the Supreme Court is “the highest body of judicial power in respect of civil, criminal, administrative as well as other cases; it shall revise the court rulings of local courts upon appeals of the participants in the judicial process in accordance with procedures established by the law.” (Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution of 2010, art. 96(1), CONSTITUTE PROJECT.) Its decisions are final and cannot be appealed.  (Id. art. 96(3).)

The law that governs presidential elections specifies that candidates for the presidency must have 30,000 signatures and that these signatures must be collected by authorized representatives of the candidate. (The Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Presidential and Jogorku Kenesh Elections in the Kyrgyz Republic (2011, as amended in 2017), art. 52 ¶¶ 1 & 2, LEGISLATION LINE (click on link embedded in the title of the law).)  The same law specifies that registration of a candidate will be canceled if a criminal court sentence for that candidate has entered into force.  (Id. art. 46 ¶ 2(8).)

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Japan: Basel Act Amended

(Sept. 12, 2017) The Act on Control of Export, Import, etc. of Specified Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes (Basel Convention Act, Act No. 108 of 1992, E-GOV (in Japanese) is a Japanese domestic law corresponding to the Basel Convention to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes.  (Overview, Basel Convention website (last visited Sept. 1, 2017).)  The Diet (Japan’s parliament) recently amended the Act and the amendment Act was promulgated on June 16, 2017.  (Act No. 62 of 2017, KANPO, Extra Ed. No.128, at 33 (June 16, 2017) (in Japanese).)  The amendment will be effective within one and a half years from the date of promulgation. (Id. Supp. Provisions, art. 1.)

The Basel Convention Act requires that people involved in the import and export of specified hazardous wastes for disposal or recycling obtain approval from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act (Act No. 228 of 1949). (Basel Convention Act, art. 4 ¶ 1 & art. 8 ¶ 1.) The amended Act aims to enhance export regulations to achieve the purpose of the Convention.  (METI & Ministry of the Environment, Regarding a Bill to Partially Amend the Act on Control of Export, Import etc. of Specified Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes (Basel Convention Act), METI website (Mar. 2017), (in Japanese).)

In order to effectively regulate mixed wastes that include specified hazardous wastes, the amendment clarifies the scope of the specified hazardous wastes, specifying them in a Ministry of the Environment ordinance. (Basel Convention Act, art. 2 ¶ 1 item 1(a).)  The amended Act also adds wastes that are designated as hazardous wastes by the domestic legislation of another country and that are to be exported to that country to the definition of specified hazardous wastes under the Basel Act.  (Id. new art. 2 ¶ 1 item 1(e).)  In addition, the amended Act clarifies what the Minister of Environment considers to be necessary pollution prevention measures of countries to which specified hazardous waste are exported.  (Id. new art. 4 ¶ 3.)  The METI Minister needs the Minister of Environment’s notification confirming that the necessary measures have been taken in the given country before the METI Minister can approve the export of the specified hazardous wastes.  (Id. art. 4 ¶ 4.)

Further, the amended Act aims to enhance the competitiveness of the domestic recycling business. It removes imports of relatively less hazardous wastes, such as electronic substrate materials when imported for recycling purposes, from regulation under the Act.  (Id. new art. 4 ¶ 3.)

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United Kingdom: Sentences for Terrorism-Related Offenses May Be Lengthened


With almost half a century of legislative experience, the United Kingdom is renowned for its robust anti-terrorism laws. The operation of these laws is reviewed on an annual basis by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. (The Independent Reviewer’s Role, INDEPENDENT REVIEWER OF TERRORISM LEGISLATION (last visited Sept. 6, 2017).)

In a recent interview with the Press Association, the Independent Reviewer, Max Hill, was reported as stating that given the number and severity of recent attacks in the UK the current maximum sentence for certain offenses may be too lenient. He stated that “[w]ith the benefit of experience and hindsight it may be the case that some offences have insufficient discretionary maximum sentences, which should be reviewed.” (Maximum Terror Prison Sentences ‘May Be Too Low,’ BBC NEWS (Sept. 2, 2017).)

Of particular concern, according to Hill, are the offenses of failing to provide information to the police if a person knows or believes the information might be of material assistance to:

  • prevent the commission of an act of terrorism or
  • secure the arrest, prosecution, or conviction of a person in the UK for a terrorism offense. (Terrorism Act 2000, c. 11, § 38B, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

The current maximum penalty upon conviction for this offense is up to five years of imprisonment and a fine. Hill has stated that this penalty should be reviewed to assess whether it is sufficient. (Maximum Terror Prison Sentences ‘May Be Too Low’, supra.)

Review of ‘Unduly Lenient’ Sentences

While Hill has suggested the need for an increased penalty, the laws of England and Wales allow the Attorney General independently, as well as upon referral from members of the public, to challenge punishments for a number of criminal and terrorism offenses under the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme. Under this plan, members of the public can request that the Attorney General review a case to see if the sentence is “unduly lenient.” If the Attorney General believes that the sentence is unduly lenient, he   may refer the case within 28 days of the original sentencing to the Court of Appeal for review. (Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, c. 6, § 155, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

The reasons the Attorney General may consider a sentence as unduly lenient are if that sentence:   

  • blunts the deterrent effect of the criminal law;
  • causes outrage to the victim;
  • is demoralizing to the police;
  • causes injustice to those who were appropriately sentenced;
  • undermines public confidence in the administration of justice and the authority of the courts;
  • may cause public danger; or
  • hinders development of a rational sentencing policy by the Court of Appeal. (House of Commons Library, Review of Unduly Lenient Sentences, Briefing Paper No. 00512 (June 30, 2017), at 4, Parliament website.)

Recently, in the wake of some individuals convicted of terrorism offenses receiving sentences that were considered by many to be too lenient and facing the inability to review them, the Justice Minister, Dominic Raab, added a number of additional terrorism offenses to the Scheme to enable the Court of Appeal to review additional cases, noting that the aim was to “reinforce our focus on deterring people who help radicalise terrorists, and punishing those who willfully turn a blind eye to terrorist activity.” (Owen Bowcott, Law to Be Changed so Terror Offenders’ Jail Terms Can Be Lengthened, GUARDIAN (London) (July 14, 2017).)

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