Recently in International Category

Murder By Alpha

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Sohrab Ahmari has this article in the WSJ:

"It has been described as one of the most dangerous post-mortem examinations ever undertaken in the Western world, and I think that's probably right."

So testified forensic pathologist Nathaniel Cary on Wednesday, the second day of the inquiry into the 2006 poisoning death of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko. The proceeding, held at the Royal Courts of Justice, aims to examine the circumstances under which Litvinenko was murdered with radioactive polonium-210, a highly unusual poison and one of many Hollywood-ready elements of the case that has made it a tabloid fixture for nearly a decade.
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The details of the case largely are more prosaic, when they're not confusing for a lay audience. The top-secret Scientist A1 was there to tell the inquiry that "one gram of polonium-210 emits one-six-six, zero-zero-zero, zero-zero-zero, zero-zero-zero, zero-zero-zero alpha particles per sec--"

"Pausing right there," an exasperated barrister interrupted, inadvertently triggering laughter in the courtroom and the press annex. "I may be wrong, but 166 quadrillion per second?"
A scientist talking to other scientists would have said 1.66 x 1014 emissions per second, but you have to dumb it down for lawyers.*  Emissions per second is actually a poor way to express radiation exposure.  Better ways involve rads, rems, or grays.

Jordan Resumes Executions

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BBC reports:

Jordan has executed 11 men convicted of murder, ending an eight-year moratorium on the death penalty in the country.

The interior ministry said the men, convicted in different cases, had been hanged at dawn on Sunday.

Jordanian authorities gave no reason for the lifting of the 2006 moratorium on capital punishment.

Interior Minister Hussein Majali recently said the public blamed a rise in crime on the non-application of the death penalty, AFP news agency reports.

Pakistan Resumes Executions

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Two convicted terrorists were hanged in Pakistan, AFP reports.

Pakistan hung two convicted militants in the first executions in six years and security forces killed more than 50 suspected militants on Friday (Dec 19) as the country's leaders vowed decisive action in the wake of a Taliban school massacre that left 149 people dead.

The bloody rampage in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday brought international condemnation and promises of swift, decisive action against militants from Pakistan's political and military leaders.

Pakistan's de facto foreign minister Sartaj Aziz told AFP the attack was his country's own "mini 9/11" and a game changer in its fight against terror.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif relinquished the six-year ban on the death penalty in terror-related cases two days after the school attack.

Two militants convicted of separate terrorism offences were the first to face the noose at a jail in central Punjab province, the province's home minister, Shuja Khanzada, told AFP.


Securing, not sealing, the border

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The Sacramento Bee has this story about President Obama's actions on immigration yesterday.  The article quotes CJLF President Michael Rushford regarding aliens who commit crimes.

The article says CJLF "advocates sealing the U.S.-Mexico border."  Um, no.  We are in favor of having a secure border so that criminals we deport can't just waltz back in.  Questions of how much and what kind of legal immigration we should allow and what kind of trade restrictions we should have are not our field, and we take no position.  We would certainly never advocate the complete cut-off implied by the word "sealing."

Underreporting of Crime

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Last week I had this post on the Uniform Crime Reports, and a commenter noted that skepticism was in order due to underreporting by some police departments.  Across the pond there appears to be a major kerfuffle on this point.  David Barrett reports in the Telegraph:

Almost a million crimes a year are disappearing from official figures as chief constables attempt to meet targets, a study by the police watchdog has disclosed.

Its report exposed "indefensible" failures by forces to record crime accurately, and said that in some areas up to a third of crimes are being struck out of official records.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said violent crimes and sex attacks were particularly vulnerable to being deleted under "inexcusably poor" systems.

Although the report stopped short of accusing police of widespread "fiddling" it said there was an "undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces" and "wrongful pressure" by managers.

It means violent criminals and even rapists are not investigated, potentially allowing offenders to strike again.
Here in the United States, we get to vote separately for a national legislature, which deals with foreign and military affairs, interstate commerce and other matters which need to be decided on a national level, and for a state legislature which is supposed to have control over those matters that can be handled more locally.  The line isn't as crisp as it used to be, or, in my opinion, as it should be, but it's there, and those separate elections serve to keep government more responsive to the will of the people.  Canada and Australia also have federated governments.

Englishmen, though, only get one legislative vote -- for their representative in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.  That may be about to change, Nicholas Winning and Jenny Gross report in the WSJ.
Sky News is projecting that Scottish voters have chosen to remain in the United Kingdom.

One More Reason to Disdain "International Law"

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When we trust justice to a tribunal whose success depends on the voluntary cooperation of thugs, justice is the one thing we won't get.

Canada's Fairness for Victims Act

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Our northern neighbor's House of Commons commendably passed the Fairness for Victims Act, which among other things allows the parole board to set reconsideration intervals up to five years rather than the current two.  When a rapist or murderer is eligible for parole and the victim or victim's family is opposed, they must go to the hearing and relive the horror.  They ought not have to do that more often than necessary.

In an amazing screw-up, though, the wrong version of the bill was sent to the Senate and referred to committee there, Sean Fine reports in the Globe and Mail.
The Wall Street Journal has this article about the convictions in the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia of Khmer Rouge intellectual and political leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Nuon Chea, 88 years old, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue and former deputy to late leader Pol Pot, and 83-year-old Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, were sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday after being found guilty of crimes against humanity--directing murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts related to the mass eviction of city-dwellers and executions of enemy soldiers.

The verdict, coming nearly three years after the trial began, marked the first convictions secured against top-tier regime officials by the United Nations-backed tribunal, long plagued by funding shortfalls and perceived political interference.
The article hails the convictions as justice for the victims of Khmer Rouge murder and pillage (crimes against humanity as the tribunal calls it) at long last, but convictions are not justice. A criminal conviction is merely a prerequisite to justice. It is the sentence that follows a conviction that determines if justice has been served.
Four days ago, Russian-backed separatists using a Russian-supplied surface to air missile shot down a commercial passenger jet, killing the 298 people on board, all civilians. Since then, those same Russian-backed separatists have taken control of the crash scene, seized the "black box" (and reportedly sent it to Moscow), stuffed the bodies in a bunch of bags like they were picking up trash, stonewalled the mourning relatives, and generally behaved as you would expect from people who murder about 300 of their fellow creatures because, ya know, these rocket launchers are really cool and fun to set off.

Baghdad Harry

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Alexander Bolton of the Hill covers  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement to reporters yesterday assuring the nation that America's southern border is secure.  He made this remarkable statement as news video streams across the airwaves showing tens of thousands of foreigners flooding across the border into Texas, Arizona and New Mexico overwhelming the already inadequate border patrol and forcing agents to become caregivers to thousands of Central American children rather than a security force looking for drug smugglers and terrorists.   In the face of what is clearly a complete breakdown of U.S. border security Senator Reid is trying to BS the entire country.  Some may remember Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Saddam Hussein's Minister of Information better known as Baghdad Bob, who in April 2003 stood in front of cameras on a Baghdad street and announced that Saddam's army had repelled coalition forces, while U.S. tanks were passing behind him. 
Today's opinion in Bond v. United States quotes Justice Felix Frankfurter's classic article, Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes, 47 Colum. L. Rev. 527 (1947).  I have modified that title a bit for this post.

In Bond, the Court "ducked" the constitutional question of whether Congress had the authority to make a federal case out of an ordinary assault perpetrated by chemical means, which would normally be a purely state case, in order to implement the international Convention on Chemical Weapons.  The Court did so by finding that the statute doesn't actually reach Ms. Bond's conduct at all, in the process plowing some difficult ground in the field of statutory interpretation.

I had previously posted on this case in January 2013, when the Court took the case up, and last October, when the Court heard oral argument.  As previously noted, Carol Bond's "husband and best friend had an affair, resulting in the friend's pregnancy.  Bond was certainly justified in being angry and taking action, but poison was over the top.  That is a crime for which she should have been prosecuted and punished -- by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" not the federal government.  Today the Supreme Court agreed unanimously, but disagreements as to why explain why this case took so long.

"Hard cases make bad law," it is often said.  This case exemplifies how bad laws make hard cases.  We begin with treaty negotiators botching the drafting process, with Congress meekly following suit.  The result is a mess. 
Alison Hsiao reports for the Taipei Times:

While the existing Criminal Code stipulates that a person who "kidnaps another to extort ransom shall be sentenced to death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for not less than seven years" and that "if aggravated injury results from the offense, the offender shall be sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for not less than 10 years," the amendments made yesterday scrapped the capital punishment from these two clauses.

The bill was proposed by the Executive Yuan, who referred in its proposal to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Taiwan in 2009 and says that in countries that have not abolished the death penalty, "the sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."

In the United States, no one has been executed for a crime not resulting in the death of the victim in the post-1976 era.  Most of the statutes enacted to comply with Furman v. Georgia limited the death penalty to murder, and the Supreme Court struck down most of the others in Coker v. Georgia (1977) and Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008).
This AP story speaks for itself:

Two teenage sisters in rural India were raped and killed by attackers who hung their bodies from a mango tree, which became the scene of a silent protest by villagers angry about alleged police inaction in the case. Two of the four men arrested so far are police officers.

Villagers found the girls' bodies hanging from the tree early Wednesday, hours after they disappeared from fields near their home in Katra village in Uttar Pradesh state, police Superintendent Atul Saxena said. The girls, who were 14 and 15, had gone into the fields because there was no toilet in their home....India tightened its anti-rape laws last year, making gang rape punishable by the death penalty, even when the victim survives.


But the most memorable part of the story is at the end, from a fellow I gather is running for president of the Indian version of the NACDL:


Last month, the head of Uttar Pradesh state's governing party, the regionally prominent Samajwadi Party, told an election rally that the party was opposed to the law calling for gang rapists to be executed.  "Boys will be boys," Mulayam Singh Yadav said. "They make mistakes."




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