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Iraqi leaders agree on draft oil law
Legal World News | 2007/01/18 13:18
Iraqi officials have agreed a final draft of a law that sets rules for sharing Iraq’s oil wealth and aims to bring in billions of dollars of foreign investment to rebuild the mainstay of the economy.

But crucially, international oil firms waiting for access to the world’s third biggest oil reserves will find little detail in the draft about the form future deals will take. They are likely to hold off major commitments until there is clarity. The draft calls for a federal committee headed by the prime minister to oversee future contracts and review deals signed under Saddam Hussein or by the Kurdish regional government, oil ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said.

Passing an oil law to help settle potentially explosive disputes among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian communities over the division of oil reserves has been a key demand of the United States in providing further military support to the government.

Iraq’s Oil Committee of senior national and regional leaders has been drawing and redrawing the document for months and missed its own deadline of finalising it by the end of 2006.

The Oil Committee, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, will send the draft to cabinet next week for approval. After that it will go to parliament. Officials hope that the broad base of the negotiating team means it will pass easily. The final draft was in line with earlier versions described last month after a previous round of talks.

A national oil company will be set up to develop production and exports and the law is intended to ensure development of the oil industry across Iraq’s regions, Jihad said. It establishes a mechanism for centralising oil revenues and distributing them to the regions. Jihad refused to say who will negotiate with the international firms but explained a federal council will have the final word on approving the contracts.

The division of oil is a key factor in communal tensions in Iraq. The southern oil fields around Basra lie in territory controlled by competing factions of the dominant Shi’ite Islamist political forces, The northern fields lie on the edge of Iraqi Kurdistan around the city of Kirkuk. Kurds want to annexe the city as their regional capital. The Sunni minority is concentrated in Baghdad and regions immediately to the north and west where there are few known hydrocarbon reserves.



UN marks soaring Iraq death toll
Legal World News | 2007/01/16 17:38

U.N. officials in Baghdad say more than 34,000 Iraqis perished in violent incidents last year, far more than the government had reported.  U.N. experts say it is urgent to strengthen the police, courts, and other institutions to stem the bloodshed.  VOA's Jim Randle reports from Baghdad.

The chief of the U.N. Human Rights Office in Iraq, Gianni Magazzeni, says U.N. staffers gathered the information from hospitals and the Ministry of Health. The statistics are grim.

"During 2006, a total of 34,452 civilians have been violently killed and 36,685 wounded," he said.

The report says an average of almost 100 people a day die in Iraq's violence.

These figures are much higher than those from Iraq's government, and government officials have called previous U.N. reports "exaggerated."

This report says the security services have been infiltrated by sectarian militia members and are ineffective.

Magazzeni says the appalling toll will not stop until Iraqis have reason to have faith in their police, courts and other institutions of justice.



10 Nazi SS members convicted in Italy
Legal World News | 2007/01/13 18:48

An Italian military court Saturday convicted 10 former SS soldiers and acquitted 7 others in the 1944 killing of more than 700 people in Marzabotto, a small town in nothern Iraly. The slaughter, which took place south of Bologna, is considered the worst killing of civilians in Italy during World War II. All of the men on trial were tried in absentia and are believed by many to be living in Germany. Each of the convicted men received life sentences for murder.

The massacre was committed by retreating German troops from September 29, 1944 to October 5, 1944. During that time, the SS soldiers killed mainly women, children and elderly in a supposed hunt for resistance fighters.



Spain arrests Argentine ex-president Isabel Peron
Legal World News | 2007/01/13 03:30

Spanish police arrested former Argentine President Isabel Peron on Friday for her alleged involvement in the disappearance of political opponent Hector Aldo Fagetti Gallego in 1976. Argentine Federal Judge Raul Acosta issued the order for her arrest on Thursday. An anonymous source within the judge's chambers told that Peron, who has lived in Spain in exile since 1981, is also wanted for questioning related to decrees she issued ordering police to eliminate "subversive elements."

In November, Argentine officials announced that the investigation into abuses committed during Argentina's "Dirty War" from 1976-83 would be expanded to include the tenure of Peron, who succeeded her husband Juan Peron when he died in office in 1974. After the announcement a lawyer for Isabel Peron told a local television station that accusations shouldn't be made against her 30 years after she left office. Peron was ousted from office in a bloodless coup in March 1976 and held under house arrest for five years before being exiled to Spain.



China court upholds sentence of rights activist
Legal World News | 2007/01/12 22:25

A Chinese court rejected the final appeal Friday of Chen Guangcheng, a blind Chinese human rights legal activist, who was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic." The Intermediate Court in Linyi city upheld the verdict and sentence after a Chinese intermediate appellate court ordered a retrial of Chen's case in November.

Chen claims the charges are retribution for his documentation of forced sterilizations and abortions performed by Chinese officials to enforce China's one-child policy. Chen was tried without the assistance of his team of prominent Chinese lawyers, who were arrested during the trial on charges of stealing a wallet. Human rights activists in China  characterize Chen's prosecution as indicative of China's uncompromising stance against public dissent.



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