Arrest order called for self-exiled Catalan MP Anna Gabriel: Spain SC

On February 21, a Spanish court issued an arrest warrant valid only in Spain for a former Catalan MP who is in self-imposed exile in Switzerland to avoid jail while she is investigated over her role in the region’s secession drive. Anna Gabriel was called to appear in the Supreme Court on charges of sedition and rebellion surrounding her alleged part in Catalonia’s illegal independence referendum and subsequent secession declaration in October 2017. Gabriel represented the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), an eco-socialist, independentist and anti-patriarchy party, in the Catalan Parliament between 2015 and 2017. She is also a history of law professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. While in Geneva, she stated that she would not travel to Madrid to face the charges as she did not believe she would have a fair trial. She did not appear for the session scheduled for Feb 21 morning. “I would have never come to Switzerland but the situation has forced me to,” she told Catalan television in an interview. “I would like to think this case will be shelved and I can return home.” When asked if extradition was a possibility, Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said, “Switzerland does not grant, like most other states, extradition and any other form of mutual legal assistance for political offences.…
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EU Legal Challenge filed by Austria to Hungarian Nuclear Power Plan

Austria, the anti-nuclear nation has filed a legal challenge at the European Court of Justice against the European Commission over its approval of Hungary’s plans to expand an atomic power plant. Austria’s new government, an alliance between Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party, has pledged to continue Vienna’s decades-long policy of opposing nuclear power. It said recently that it would file the legal challenge against the expansion of the Paks power plant situated near the border it shares with Hungary. “We must take up this David-versus-Goliath struggle for the sake of our nature, our environment and our unique countryside,” the minister for sustainability and tourism, Elisabeth Koestinger, said in a statement, announcing the government had started the case. “Nuclear energy has no place in Europe. We will not deviate from this line by even a centimeter.” A spokesman for the EU executive said, “The Commission will defend its decision in Court.” In March, EU state aid regulators approved Hungary’s plan to build two new reactors at its Paks nuclear site with the help of Russia’s Rosatom, saying Hungarian authorities had agreed to several measures to ensure fair competition. The two new reactors will double the plant’s nominal capacity of 2,000 megawatts.…
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‘World Leading’ Domestic Abuse Law Passed: Scottish Parliament

On February 1, a law setting a “gold standard” for domestic abuse legislation by incorporating both emotional and physical violence into the same offence is passed by the Scottish Parliament. The legislation creates a specific offence of domestic abuse, previously dealt with under various existing laws. The measures are set to make Scotland a world leader in fighting domestic abuse, as victims of the crime will not be required to prove in court that they have been harmed. “This is a momentous day. Our laws will be changed so they reflect the experience all too many women have suffered,” Justice Secretary Michael Matheson. “It will enable the court to consider both behaviour which would be criminal under the existing law, like assault and threats, and psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour that can be difficult to prosecute using the existing law,” he added. Calling it a “fundamentally innovative” legislation, Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said, “Women have been telling us for years that it is emotional abuse that is most harmful. One of the unique things about this bill is that it privileges the experiences of women and children. That’s why Scotland’s approach to domestic abuse is so radical.” The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill covers psychological and emotional maltreatment and coercive and controlling behaviour as well as physical attacks.…
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Gay Marriage Repealed by Bermuda in a first

On February 7, the governor of Bermuda signed a bill into law that repeals same-sex marriage, reversing a Supreme Court ruling. The Domestic Partnership Act gives domestic partners rights that are similar to married couples, but not the legal title. The governor said that “[t]he Act is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda,” noting that a majority of Bermudians do not agree with same-sex marriage. The Act states that “a marriage is void unless the parties are respectively male and female,” but also recognizes and aims to protect the rights of same-sex couples. The Act also recognizes same-sex couples who were already married under Bermuda law before its enactment, as well as any overseas same-sex marriages that occurred before its enactment. Bermudans were first granted the right to same-sex marriages after a Supreme Court ruling in May 2017 but the decision outraged many on the socially conservative island, including church leaders and thousands protested outside parliament. Under the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, already passed by Bermuda’s House of Assembly and Senate, any Bermudian will be allowed to form domestic partnerships which the government says will offer equal rights. (Credits: Jurist)…
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Ban preventing asylum seekers working struck down: Ireland SC

On February 9, the Supreme Court of Ireland formally ruled in a unanimous decision that the complete employment ban on asylum seekers was unconstitutional. In May 2017, the five Judge Court unanimously ruled, in a judgment delivered by Justice Donal O’Donnell, the absolute ban was unconstitutional “in principle” but it deferred making a formal declaration for six months to allow the legislature address the situation. When the case returned before the court in November, 2017, the State looked for more time to put measures in place but the court said it intended to make the declaration on February 9th, regardless of what progress the State had made. The court was told in November, 2017 that the Government was in the process of opting into the EU Reception Directive, which requires member states to afford the right to work in certain circumstances. The State will have a four month interim period from February 9th to fully opt into the directive and draw up its own work-permit system for asylum seekers. The Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, had said that the court had “exceptionally” not taken the normal course of immediately declaring the provisions to be unconstitutional and recognised there were choices to be made as to how the difficulty identified was to be addressed.…
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Anti-defamation bill to be signed into law: Polish President

On February 6, the Polish President Andrzej Duda signed an anti-defamation bill that prohibits blaming Poland for assisting in Holocaust crimes, use of the historically inaccurate term “Polish death camps”. However, the law still needs the verification by the Constitutional Court, in order to ensure its compatibility with the constitution. During a televised address, Duda justified his decision by emphasizing that “we need to protect a good name of Polish people and Poland both”. Duda also referred to some concerns that have occurred in Israel and in the United States recently, saying these concerns suggest that the new bill may lead to deny or to distort the historical truth. But the Polish president said there is no such risk. Israeli foreign ministry has responded shortly after Duda’s announcement on Twitter that Israel continues to get across with Polish authorities and has articulated its reservations towards the amendment. The ministry said it expected changes into the bill. The anti-defamation bill has been being discussed since January 26, 2018 when Sejm (lower house of Polish parliament) passed the bill. The law is supposed to take effect 14 days after it is published. (Credits: China News Agency) (With inputs from Jurist)…
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US and UK Banks Ban Bitcoin Purchases Via Credit Card

On February 5, UK-based Lloyds Banking Group joined major US banks in banning purchases of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies via credit card amid debt and security concerns. An LBG spokesman said the ban was across its Lloyd Bank, Bank of Scotland, Halifax and MBNA branded credit cards. In a brief statement, he said LBG does “not accept credit card transactions involving the purchase of cryptocurrencies”. Recently, US lenders Bank of American, Citigroup and JPMorgan each introduced the same ban. There is a concern that customers who bought bitcoin in late 2017 when crytocurrencies in general surged in value have been left with big losses following massive declines in recent times. An LBG spokesman said the ban was across its Lloyd Bank, Bank of Scotland, Halifax and MBNA branded credit cards. As of February 5, the price of bitcoin tumbled to $7,950, two months after breaking through the $20,000 mark. It comes as China plans to stamp out all remaining cryptocurrency trading in the country by blocking access to overseas-based websites and removing related applications from app stores. The international value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have plunged in 2018 amid fears of a crackdown in Asia and concerns that many currencies’ rapid rise in value in 2017 could reflect a bubble.…
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DDoS cyber attacks hit on Largest Dutch banks, tax office

On January 29, as per media reports, three Dutch banks and the Dutch tax authorities were hit by cyberattacks. The culprit behind the so-called distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks is not clear. Rabobank, the Netherlands’ second largest lender, had a lapse for nearly three hours. Customers had no access to mobile and Internet banking due to the disruption, sources revealed. The tax authority said it faced DDoS attacks that caused its website and online services to go down for five to ten minutes. “The attack is under investigation,” said spokesperson André Karels said. On the same day, the website of the Dutch tax authorities was also hit by a DDoS attack. Moreover, a few days earlier, ING, the country’s largest bank, and ABN Amro, were also hit by DDoS attacks. The services are restored now and the banks said clients’ info were not compromised or leaked. In general, when a website is hit by a DDoS attack, servers from multiple locations are bombarded simultaneously with requests that make them overloaded. Due to this, the website and online services become inaccessible. As per Dutch cyber expert Rickey Gevers, it is too early to conclude who is behind the recent DDoS attacks and whether they are related to the reports that Dutch intelligence compromised the Russian hacker group.…
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Bill to recover regions occupied by Russia passed: Ukraine parliament

On January 18, the Ukraine Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) passed a bill which recognizes regions presently under Russia-backed separatist control as “occupied” and upholds fetching those areas through political and diplomatic means while allowing for military action. Out of the 450-member parliament, 280 members approved the bill and it was endorsed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The new bill labels Russia as an “aggressor” and sustains a ban on trade and a transportation blockade of the eastern regions put into action in 2017, in addition to recognition of the areas as “occupied”. The peace deals reached in Minsk in 2015 by Ukrainian, Russian, French and German leaders. They were not mentioned in the bill. The peace deals agreed upon by the countries comprised of provisions for de-escalation and self-government for separatists areas. The bill’s support for reforming of these areas has incited criticism from Russian foreign policy officials and separatists who see the legislation as damaging the peace deals in Minsk.…
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Bulgaria President vetoes anti-corruption bill

On January 2, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev vetoed an anti-corruption measure adopted in December 2017 by the country’s National Assembly. The Law for Counteracting Corruption and Forfeiture of the Unlawfully Acquired Property, sanctioned by the National Assembly on December 20, 2017 would have created a single commission charged with investigating high government officials for graft and conflicts of interest. In vetoing the measure, Radev said that the law “not only does not provide an adequate legal basis for dealing with corruption but will make it even more difficult to fight it.” He marked the fragmentation of anti-corruption responsibilities among various governmental units, insufficient guarantees of the independence and impartiality of commission members, the lack of professional qualifications needed to join the commission and the potential for politically motivated investigations as justifying his decision. Radev flagged for support to fight corruption in Bulgaria, saying that “corruption restricts the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, erodes confidence in the state, hampers economic development and investment, and steals the nation’s welfare” and calling for “a comprehensive and multidisciplinary” solution. The European Commission has continuously monitored anti-corruption efforts in Bulgaria since it joined the EU in 2007. The Commission’s oversight role and Radev’s decision to scuttle an EU priority in Bulgaria take on additional significance as Bulgaria assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on January 1.…
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Legal probe ordered against Lactalis over contaminated baby milk

A legal probe has been ordered against Lactalis for allegedly causing involuntary injuries and endangering the lives of others including possible cheating and failures in carrying out a product recall. The probe was initiated after the father of a three-month-old baby who drank the milk, and the UFC Que Choisir consumer association, had filed a complaint against Lactalis. In August 2017, 35 children feel sick with salmonella poisoning in France, an unusually high number which led health authorities to refer to an epidemic of the illness. On December 10, 2017, Lactalis had ordered a first major recall of nearly 7,000 tonnes of packets produced by a contaminated factory in Craon in northwest France. The product withdrawals have affected consumers in countries such as China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Britain and Sudan, underlining the reach of the company and the difficulty in tracing all the potentially at-risk powder.…
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Uber is a transport firm, Europe court rules

On December 20, according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice, Uber is a company that provides transportation services in Europe rather than a digital firm. The European Union’s highest court for deciding matters of European law. A taxi association in Spain asked a commercial court in Barcelona to review Uber’s activity as “unfair competition” after 3 years of which the decision comes. To that end, the court had to figure out whether Uber was providing “information society” services or transport services. The court said that Uber’s service was beyond “intermediation service consisting of connecting, by means of a smartphone application.” The ruling would not affect its activity in most EU countries where the company already operates under transportation law, Uber said. “However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours,” an Uber spokesperson. “As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe.”…
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