Tag Archive | "legislation"

A scientist works during an IVF process on Aug. 11, 2008.

UK approves law allowing conception of three-parent babies

In a bold and unprecedented move in the House of Commons, 382 Members of Parliament voted in favor of a technique that stops genetic diseases from being passed down from a mother to her child, with 182 members in opposition.  This technique uses the DNA from two women and one man to “create” a baby with altered DNA.  This alteration causes a permanent change in order to prevent a genetic disease from being passed to future generations.  As a last legislative hurdle, the law was approved in the House of Lords on February 24th by a majority of 232.  The introduction of such a law will launch the UK into a new frontier, and the surrounding debate has engendered skepticism and controversy.

The technique, developed in Newcastle, aims to help families who want to have healthy children but are confronted with the obstacle of a genetic disease, such as mitochondrial disease.  An estimated one in 6,500 babies in the UK are thought to develop a mitochondrial disorder, a serious health problem that can lead to heart and liver disease, respiratory problems, muscular dystrophy and blindness. The issue is that defective mitochondria are only passed to the child from the mother, so this technique uses a modified version of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to supplement the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman.  Ultimately, the baby would only possess 0.1% of the donor woman’s DNA, and the process would completely eliminate the disease from passing down to future generations.  If the law is passed, around 150 babies could be born each year utilizing this technique.

A scientist works during an IVF process on Aug. 11, 2008.

A scientist works during an IVF process on Aug. 11, 2008.
Photo Credit: Ben Birchall / AP, USAToday

Proponents of the law, which amends the 2008 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act, believe it is an important step onto the frontiers of science and a long-awaited opportunity for families struggling with this issue.  The Public Health Minister Jane Ellison is included in this group, as she believes it is “a bold step for parliament to take, but it is a considered and informed step.”  The law’s supporters believe it falls short of being considered “genetic modification” because the mitochondrial DNA constitutes only 0.054% of a human’s overall DNA and none of the nuclear DNA that actually determines a human’s characteristics and traits.  Those in favor of the law believe it is a wonderful scientific step for the UK in the realm of IVF treatments.

The law is not without opposition, however.  Opponents worry that families attempting the technique will be disappointed and let down because of the technique’s uncertainties should it fail.  Others equate the situation to genetically modifying crops and believe that the approval of this law might create a slippery slope to allowing even further genetic modification of children.  Strong opponents of the law include the Catholic and Anglican Churches in England.  They do not support the law because they believe the technique involves the destruction of embryos.  Others in opposition do not think the science behind the technique has been adequately proven and others argue about where to draw the ethical line, but now that the law has passed, it will still be up to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not the treatment can proceed.  If a certain case is approved, the child born will not be able to discover the identity of the “third parent” donor.

Now that the law has passed in the House of Lords, the next step is for the UK fertility regulator to develop and publish licensing rules for evaluating applications to perform this technique.  By early October of 2015 the regulations are set to come into force, and the first babies could be born as soon as next autumn using the new technique.  Critics caution that the law could open up the UK to dangerous precedents, but others applaud the brave new future of scientific discovery.  Time will tell where this path will take the UK and whether or not other countries will follow suit in years to come.

Laura Brodie is a 3L law student at University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Canadian flag.

Critical Analysis: Canada’s Involvement in the War on Terror

When people think of Canada, they generally do not think of its intensive involvement with counter terrorism measures. In fact, most Canadians also do not consider Canada to be highly involved in the international “war on terror.” However, recent events have brought increased attention to Canada’s extensive involvement in anti-terrorism measures and have called Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recently proposed anti-terrorism legislation into question.

First, on October 20th, 2014, Martin Couture-Rouleau struck and killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent with his car. He was pursued and later gunned down. Prior to the hit and run, Couture-Rouleau was placed on a terrorist threat list and his passport had been confiscated earlier due to fears that he would travel abroad to participate in extremist militant activities. Friends close to Couture-Rouleau stated that he had recently converted to Islam. Apparently, he was also going through an intensive bought of depression. As his depression deepened, Couture-Rouleau turned increasingly inwards and towards online networking sites. Although he was a recent convert to Islam, he did not appear to receive any direction from any extremist groups beyond a recent call for individuals to pose attacks on countries that have become more involved in the war on terror such as the UK, Canada, France, the US, Germany, and Australia.

Canadian flag.

Canadian flag. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.com.

Only two days later, Canadians were shocked and horrified when Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Parliament Hill. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Quebecois native, next opened fire slightly north of the National War Memorial in the Centre Bloc of Canada’s Parliament Building. Some reports say that he fired as many as 50 shots before Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers took down the gunman. Michael Zahaf-Bibeau presents similar issues as Martin Couture-Rouleau. Although he was also operating alone and without any direct orders from Islamic terrorist organizations, Zahaf-Bibeau was also a recent convert to Islam, but as with Couture-Rouleau, there were other mental health factors at play. Zehaf Bibeau had a criminal record and had been staying at a homeless shelter prior to the shooting. He had apparently also been psychologically unstable, experiencing delusions relating to government surveillance and engaging in heavy drug use. These issues cause questions to arise relating to how an unstable individual was able to gain access to a firearm.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has referred to these two unrelated attacks in a consolidated context. He is promoting a new piece of legislation, Bill C-13, which is similar to the U.S. PATRIOT Act. The House of Commons voted to pass the bill on the same day of Michael Zahaf-Bibeau’s attack. The bill is still subject to a vote from the Senate, but it is likely that the Senate will not impede its implementation. Bill C-13 is similar to the PATRIOT Act in that it calls for police to have increased pre-emptive detainment powers and the power to revoke passports of individuals to restrict their ability to travel internationally. These measures go directly against Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees Canadians the right to “enter, remain in and leave Canada.” Bill C-13 also confers increased investigation powers upon police such that they may seize data related to all telecommunications. Many are angered at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to implement and fight for the bill given Canada’s extensive counter-terrorism safeguards and accuse PM Harper of using the recent attacks as a means to push his security agenda. Proponents of the bill argue that these measures are simply required in the face of modern terrorist tactics.

As with most controversies, the truth of the matter can likely be found somewhere in the middle. On one hand, the terrorist group known as ISIS likely partially motivated both of the attacks when they issued their call to action. On the other hand, these attacks were largely unrelated and executed by mentally unstable individuals. Likewise, the passing of the anti-terrorism bill may not be as bad as it has been made out to be, but it does appear to be somewhat inconsistent with the rights granted in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It remains to be seen how these controversies play out, and how Bill C-13 will operate upon its implementation.

Katie McAuley is a 3L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Candidacy Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

 

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A pro-choice march in Dublin.

Critical Analysis: Ms. Y Tests Ireland’s Abortion Policy

November 2, 2014

Two years ago, the death of Savita Hallapanaver pushed the Irish Government into passing legislation regarding abortion that its own Supreme Court had required it to do fifteen years before hand.  Last month, another abortion-related scandal erupted when an official report was leaked detailing the events leading to the decision to deliver a child at twenty-six weeks gestation due to the asylum-seeking mother’s refusal to eat or drink after having been denied access to an abortion.  These two incidences have breathed life into a campaign in Ireland to legalize abortion.  More broadly, Ms. Y presents the question as to what duty of care governments have towards those seeking asylum within their borders.

Abortion in Ireland has been a controversial issue for decades.  In 1983, a Constitutional Amendment made abortion illegal, with “due regard” to the life of the mother.  A series of Irish and European court cases over the years has affirmed the right of the Irish state to ban abortions, while supporting the right for women to travel.  Additionally, these cases have cited the need for the Irish government to create legislation in order to establish when abortions could be performed, which finally passed in the wake of Ms. Hallapanaver’s death.

A pro-choice march in Dublin.

A pro-choice march in Dublin.
Photo/Caption Credit: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland, http://www.thejournal.ie/ms-y-hse-report-1685117-Sep2014/

Ms. Y is the first high-profile test of the new legislation.  Soon after arriving in Ireland and requesting asylum, Ms. Y learned she was pregnant. She immediately informed officials that she could not have this baby; it was the result of a rape in her home country.  Over the following weeks, various government entities offered Ms. Y the option to travel to England to obtain an abortion.  However, she would have to procure the funds, and a visa may not be ready for her in time.  As the weeks progressed, she appeared to receive inconsistent counseling and assessment as to her mental health and legal options, and may have failed to pursue the options explained to her.  In early June, she attempted to travel to England without a visa, telling officials there that she would rather die than have the baby.  She continued to deteriorate, until, at 26 weeks gestation, she was not eating or drinking consistently, and doctors assessed her as not being able to carry the baby any longer.  The child was delivered via C-section, survived, and is now in the care of the state.  Ms. Y has medically recovered, but remains too emotionally fragile to participate in the official inquiry.

Ms Y’s case has thrown force into the movement to end Ireland’s abortion ban, but it also reflects a larger issue for Ireland and all states coping with the needs of asylum seekers.  Though Ms. Y could not access an abortion in Ireland, it is widely available in most nearby countries.  Because she chose Ireland as her country of refuge, she found herself in a situation where she could not have her needs as a refugee addressed.

The principle of non-refoulement discourages states from sending persecuted individuals back to a situation of danger.  Beyond this, however, states have few obligations towards asylum seekers.  Indeed, states themselves decide whether non-refoulement applies in a particular case.  The United States found itself in this dilemma over the summer with the thousands of Central American children arriving in the country.  The Ebola crisis has created issues surrounding acceptance, deportation, and care of asylum seekers.  Even despite official protocols, attitudes towards asylum seekers can limit their access to basic services.

Ireland has become aware of the importance of providing asylum seekers with a basic level of care, but Ms Y’s experience demonstrates that it cannot or will not adjust policy to meet the unique needs of an asylee.  Ideally, Ireland will be able to work within the larger European community to address its own limitations.  Indeed, the European Union already works to establish a robust and consistent refugee program.  Unfortunately, much of the focus by the EU and the UN remains on the entry and assessment of refugees, rather than what obligations states have towards its refugees.  Ms. Y’s experience demonstrates that a refugee can flee a dangerous situation only to find herself trapped in a system that further victimizes her.

 

Alicia Gauch is a 3L law student at University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Uruguayan president José Mujica

Critical Analysis: Uruguay’s New Law to Legalize Marijuana

by Laura Brodie, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

November 1, 2014

On December 10, 2013, the country of Uruguay made headlines around the world by passing a law to legalize marijuana throughout the country.  The law is considered a victory for many yet others remain skeptical about its effectiveness as the country continues to wage the war on drugs.  What appears more impressive, however, is the detailed plan and system Uruguay hopes to implement with the passage of the act as it comes into effect (likely) in 2014 and if not, in 2015.  Not only is the new law a tremendously bold step for this South American country, it could potentially have the effect of starting a trend not only in Latin America but other parts of the world.

Uruguay flag marijuana leaf

In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Image Source: shutterstock.com

Uruguay’s previous law concerning marijuana use was Law No. 14.294, passed in 1974, and has since then been modified by Law No. 17.016 in 1998 and Law No. 19.172 in December 2013.  Law No. 17.016 added the language “chemical precursors or other chemical products” to be included in drug laws, which before that amendment only discussed psychoactive and narcotic substances.  The fundamental change to the law came through the 2013 legislation, however.  Law No. 19.172 specifically states that with regard to marijuana in particular, the Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute must authorize the growing or cultivation of those plants and those activities will be under the direct control of that Institute.

Additionally, Article 6 of the 2013 law qualifies the previous law to state that anyone who produces marijuana by planting, growing, and harvesting marijuana plants with psychoactive effects in accordance with the provisions in Article 3 of (Law No. 19.172) will not be liable for prosecution, which is a dramatic change from the previous law.  Before, the law imposed penalties of imprisonment ranging from 20 months to 10 years for anyone who, without legal authorization, produced substances capable of producing psychological dependency.  Another interesting change is that Article 31 of Law No. 14.294 decriminalized anyone who possessed a reasonable quantity, exclusively for his or her personal consumption, but Article 7 of the 2013 law sets the quantity of allowable marijuana at 40 grams.

The unique aspect of Uruguay’s law is the elaborate system created to regulate the legal production, sale, and consumption of the drug.  The country is setting the price for legal cannabis at around $0.87 per gram, and the rules mandate that one must be either a Uruguayan citizen or a permanent resident in order to purchase marijuana.  The law allows people to grow up to six plants at home and produce at most 480 grams per year.  Also, marijuana clubs with memberships of 15-45 people will be legal.

Uruguayan president José Mujica

Uruguayan president José Mujica signed legislation making Uruguay the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Image Source: anarquista.net

It appears that Uruguay initiated this new trend of legalizing marijuana use to achieve several goals.  First, the government wants to undercut the black market by offering marijuana at a low price, making it more readily available, and identifying those who are buying and selling it.  Also, the country realized that there was an increase in consumption when marijuana was prohibited, so this law is an attempt to change that and hopefully take care of those who abuse drugs (money from the taxation of cannabis will partially be used to treat those with addictions).  The country has a stupendous goal of trying to track every gram sold by bar-coding bags and containing the genetic information of plants that are legally produced, but this system will only work if enough resources are used to implement the plan correctly.

Although reportedly the sales of legal cannabis have been delayed and will not commence until 2015, it will be interesting to follow the success of the new law and its implementing program to determine whether or not Uruguay’s bold move will be a trendsetter in Latin America and other areas around the world where legislators are considering whether or not to legalize marijuana.

 

Laura Brodie is a 3L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Internet graphic

Critical Analysis: Determining the Boundaries of the Internet

Cloud Computing and Internet Surveillance

Since the rise of the internet, lawmakers and courts have struggled to create legal rules for a computer network that disregards geographical boundaries. Issues concerning internet governance have only grown more complex with the recent trend towards cloud computing and revelations of internet surveillance by government agencies. U.S. companies host massive amounts of data from customers around the world, with much of that information being stored overseas. These same U.S. companies have come under fire for giving U.S. government agencies access to customer data. Many countries responded to these revelations by enacting legislation designed to protect the privacy of their citizens’ data. Now we are left with a segmented, country-by-country approach, to govern an internet that has no borders. The lack of a unified international framework for data protection has made it impossible for global internet companies to comply with all of the contradicting demands of their various stakeholders.

global network graphic

Image Source: wonderfulengineering.com

Microsoft Refuses to Give Foreign Hosted Data to U.S. Authorities

A court decision determining the circumstances under which U.S. law enforcement agencies may obtain digital information stored outside the U.S. has become the most recent example of the difficulty in reconciling the notion of sovereignty with a globally distributed network. During the summer of 2014, a United States court ordered Microsoft to produce the content of email-data stored on servers in Dublin, Ireland. Microsoft complied with the warrant to the extent of producing the metadata of the email stored on U.S. servers but has refused to turn over the foreign hosted content. Microsoft claims that U.S. courts do not have the power to issue warrants for extraterritorial search and seizure. In the courts view, extraterritoriality does not apply to warrants issued pursuant to the Stored Communications Act (SCA) because the information is within the control of Microsoft.

Stored Communications Act (SCA)

Part of the purpose of the SCA was to address the difficulty in applying Fourth Amendment protections to information communicated and stored electronically. The court argues that a section 2703(a) SCA warrant operates like a hybrid between a subpoena and a warrant. With a subpoena the test for compulsory production of information is whether or not the information is in the possession, custody, or control of the subpoena recipient. Extraterritoriality does not apply because, like a subpoena, an SCA warrant does not involve government agents entering the premises of the ISP to search its servers and seize information. One of the problems in allowing the SCA warrant hybrid to defy jurisdictional boundaries is that it creates a situation where Microsoft cannot comply with both the order and the laws of the host country simultaneously.

The Business of International Internet Companies

Microsoft, with the support of several other tech giants (including AT&T, Apple, Cisco, and Verizon among others), is claiming that this court order could set a precedent that might encourage Europeans to avoid using Microsoft products out of a fear that expansive U.S. discovery rules could expose all of their information. To maintain its European customers and avoid possible liability abroad, Microsoft has a very strong incentive to push back against this order. Microsoft has argued that if it complied with this order, it could decimate the U.S. cloud computing industry – which would cost both jobs and massive tax revenue. To protect its growing business in countries outside the U.S. Microsoft is urging the U.S. government to abide with its mutual legal assistance treaties, or MLATs. This approach would allow for more cooperation between the requesting and host countries, ensuring that the local laws of the host country are not disregarded in the process of acquiring the requested information.

Internet graphic

Image Source: techpolicydaily.com

The Cloud Computing Industry Fights Back

While this case has played out in the court systems members of the United States Congress have been working to find an appropriate solution to the issues presented by U.S. based companies hosting data abroad. On September 18, 2014 a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, or LEADS Act. The LEADS Act would implement the warrant-for-content rule, meaning that the account of a U.S. citizen held overseas would only be accessible to law enforcement with a judicial warrant. The goal of the bill is to balance the needs of U.S. law enforcement with consumer privacy rights. Microsoft is supportive of the new bill as a way to continue the conversation over the control of data, but was adamant that it would not be the conversation’s conclusion.

Matthew Aeschbacher is a 4LE law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a staff editor for the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.

 

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Uganda_thumb

Critical Analysis: High Stakes for GLBTQ Community in Uganda

After a controversy spanning five years, Ugandan President Museveni signed a bill into law expanding the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda.  GLBTQ individuals could now face up to life imprisonment.  Besides an inherent anti-GLBTQ sentiment, the rhetoric surrounding the passage of the bill has been strongly anti-colonial and anti-West.  Decried by nations and NGO’s as potentially violating human rights, the Ugandan government is defying international pressure and embracing an extreme stance on homosexuality.

Ugandan government takes an extreme stance against the GLBTQ community. Image Source: Reuters

The Ugandan government takes an extreme stance against the GLBTQ community with anti-homosexual laws. Image Source: Reuters

In contrast to many other anti-GLBTQ laws, the stakes for GLBTQ individuals in Uganda are particularly high.  Beyond the discrimination enshrined in laws in the United States, or even criminalization as seen in Russia and most of the rest of Africa, Uganda’s GLBTQ community faces a substantial threat of violence.  The original bill made some homosexual acts a capital offence.  Though this punishment was removed from the final bill amid international outcry, the 2011 beating death of activist David Kato demonstrates the grave risk homosexuals face in Uganda.  A recently published list of high-profile homosexuals makes the potential for violence very real.  GLBTQ individuals, their supporters, and their families are understandably alarmed by the passage of the law.

Despite the anti-West rhetoric, the anti-GLBTQ movement can trace back to evangelical Christian roots in the United States.  Though not explicitly supporting the legislation, American evangelicals are accused of exporting their culture wars by using Uganda and other African countries push back against the growing support for GLBTQ rights in the United States.  Indeed, a group of American Christian politicians called “the Family” are tied to the Ugandan leaders who brought forth the legislation.  The result is that much of the debate surrounding gay rights in the United States has transplanted into Uganda, but with the more extreme goal of eradicating homosexuality at any cost.

The backlash for Uganda promises to be significant.  The European Union released a statement noting Uganda’s obligations under human rights laws and Sweden has announced potential redirection of funding away from the government.  Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands have halted aid, while the United States has announced a review of aid.  Financial implications may be limited, however, because of the important role Uganda plays in addressing the unstable situation in Somalia.

The international community faces the dilemma of how to support human rights while respecting a nation’s ability to determine social policy.  Given American involvement in the development of the law, we have a particular responsibility to take some sort of action.  Direct financial pressure on Uganda may not be effective, because it may lead to economic and political instability in a relatively fragile state.  Rather, we can back indigenous efforts to establish GLBTQ rights as human rights in Uganda. The West can accomplish this by supporting Ugandan organizations (like this one), activists (as Sweden is), or high-profile Ugandan GLBTQ supporters (like here). Most significantly, we can hold our own citizens accountable for their involvement in GLBTQ persecution, such as through lawsuits, boycotts, and political pressure.

Alicia Gauch holds a Ph.D in International Peace Studies, and is a second year law student and Staff Editor at the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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