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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.

Russia: President Signs Law Allowing Adoption of Children by People with Particular Diseases

(June 26, 2019) On May 29, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that allows courts to use discretion in approving adoption orders concerning children who already live with their prospective adoptive parents if one of the parents is suffering from certain diseases. (Federal Law No. 115 of May 29, 2019, on Amending Article 127 of the Family Code of the Russian Federation, Pravo official legal information portal (in Russian).)

The Law was passed to execute a Constitutional Court decision issued on June 20, 2018. (Putin Has Allowed People with HIV to Adopt Children, PRAVO (May 30, 2019) (in Russian).) The case concerned a couple who wished to challenge a provision of the Family Code. (Maxim Varaksin, Constitutional Court Allows Woman with HIV to Adopt a Child, PRAVO (June 21, 2018) (in Russian). Article 127 of the Code made it illegal for people suffering from illnesses included in the government-approved List of Illnesses to adopt a child, establish guardianship, or provide foster care. (Government of the Russian Federation Regulation No. 117 of Feb. 14, 2013 on Approving the List of Illnesses Preventing a Sick Individual from Adoption, Guardianship, and Providing Foster Care, website (in Russian).)

The wife of the couple in question was infected with HIV and hepatitis C at a hospital after a miscarriage. (New Law in Russia Ends Ban on HIV, Hep-C Parents Adopting Children, RT NEWS (May 30, 2019).) The couple successfully became parents via surrogacy, but article 127 of the Family Code prevented them from adopting their child. The Court ruled it impermissible to deny an individual infected with HIV or hepatitis C the ability to adopt a child who shares an established family relationship with the adopter and lives with the adopter, as long as the adoption is in the child’s best interest. (Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, Ruling No. 25-P of June 20, 2018, Constitutional Court website (in Russian).)

The Court cited the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that in order for children to be able to harmoniously and fully develop their identities, they need to grow up in a family environment surrounded by happiness, love, and understanding. (Id.; Convention on the Rights of the Child preamble, Nov. 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3.) Because Russia signed and ratified this treaty, the Court reasoned that Russia must take appropriate measures to exercise the rights of children. (Ruling No. 25-P § 2.) Following the 2018 Constitutional Court decision, which specifically stated the unconstitutionality of the adoption ban for HIV and hepatitis C-infected individuals, these two diseases were removed from the government’s List of Illnesses. Because local authorities continued to exclude HIV-infected people from the adoption process, however, in May 2019, a federal district court in the northeastern region of Russia accepted a case to review the legality of such a decision, and repealed as illegal the decision of a local guardianship board, which had prohibited a woman with HIV from establishing guardianship over her orphaned nephew, who had lived with this woman since his birth. (Nefteyugansk District Court, Case No. 2a-1912/2019, Russian Federation Automated Justice Portal (in Russian).)

The newly added amendment to the Family Code now allows the courts to permit in limited circumstances adoptions for even those people diagnosed with other serious listed illnesses, such as tuberculosis, malignant tumors, substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, and varied forms of disability.

Along with with these health conditions, the new Law removes what it terms “indiscriminate impediments” to adoption by adopters whose income is below the poverty line or who have not completed the training for adopting individuals required by article 127 of the Family Code. Courts may now deviate from the ban and grant adoption to a wider group of people; however, only those children who live with these individuals due to previously established family relations are subject to adoption under the new rules. (Federal Law No. 115, art. 2.) Observers conclude that, even though more individuals are able to apply for adoption now, the Law continues to prohibit poor or disease-infected individuals from initiating open adoption proceedings, and leaves the adoption process at the discretion of a judge. (Stephanie Sundier, Putin Signs Bill Enabling Some HIV-Positive Individuals to Adopt, JURIST (May 31, 2019).)

Prepared by Tim Velenchuk, Law Library intern, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.

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Germany: Regulation to Allow Use of E-scooters on Public Roads Enacted

(June 25, 2019) On June 14, 2019, a regulation was published in Germany’s Federal Law Gazette that allows the use of light electric vehicles on public roads. Light electric vehicles include, among other things, e-scooters and Segways. Riders must use bike lanes or, if none are available, the street. Previously, the use of e-scooters was prohibited in Germany. Segways were allowed under the Mobility Help Regulation, which has been repealed and replaced by the new regulation. (Verordnung über die Teilnahme von Elektrokleinstfahrzeugen am Straßenverkehr und zur Änderung weiterer straßenverkehrsrechtlicher Vorschriften [Elektrokleinstfahrzeugverordung] [Regulation on the Participation of Light Electric Vehicles in Road Traffic] [Light Electric Vehicles Regulation], June 6, 2019, BUNDESGESETZBLATT [BGBl.] [FEDERAL LAW GAZETTE] I at 756, BGBl. website.)

Definition of Light Electric Vehicles

The Light Electric Vehicles Regulation defines light electric vehicles as “motor vehicles with electric drive and a top speed of no less than 6 kmh (3.7 mph) and no more than 20 kmh (15.5 mph) that meet the following criteria:

  • a vehicle without seats or a self-balancing vehicle with or without seats;
  • a handlebar or handrail of at least 500 mm (about 19.7 in.) for motor vehicles with seats and of at least 700 mm (about 27.6 in.) for motor vehicles without seats;
  • continuous rated power of no more than 500 watts, or no more than 1400 watts if at least 60% of the power is used for self-balancing;
  • a total width of no more than 700 mm, a total height of no more than 1400 mm (about 55 in.) and a total length of no more than 2000 mm (about 78.7 in.); and
  • a maximum vehicle mass without driver of no more than 55 kg (about 121 lbs.). (Id. § 1.)

A light electric vehicle is self-balancing if it has built-in electronic balancing, drive, handlebar, and deceleration technology to keep it balanced autonomously.

Requirements for Use on Public Roads

A light electric vehicle may be driven on public roads only if it

  • corresponds to a type for which type approval or individual approval has been issued;
  • has valid insurance for light electric vehicles;
  • has a vehicle identification number and a manufacturer’s data plate that states “light electric vehicle” and lists the top speed and the type approval number or individual approval number for the vehicle; and
  • meets the requirements for deceleration devices, lighting, audible warning, and other safety measures. (Id. § 2.)

Children under 14 years of age are not allowed to ride light electric vehicles. (Id. § 3.)

Riders may use only bike lanes or shared lanes for pedestrians and bikes. If there are none, light electric vehicles may be driven on the street. Public authorities may permit the use of light electric vehicles in other areas on a case-by-case basis or for specific applicants. General permission to use light electric vehicles in such traffic areas must be indicated with a traffic sign “light electric vehicles allowed.” (Id. § 10.)

Rules of Conduct

Riders must drive behind each other, are not allowed to hold onto other driving vehicles, and are prohibited from driving no-handed. (Id. § 11, para. 1.) A turn must be indicated in a timely manner with a hand signal if the light electric vehicle does not a have a blinker. Riders must pay attention to bike traffic and adjust their speed to bike traffic if necessary. (Id. § 11, para. 4.)

Light electric vehicle riders who do not adhere to the rules as outlined in the Light Electric Vehicles Regulation can be fined up to €2,000 (about US$2,244). (Id. § 14; Straßenverkehrsgesetz [StVG] [Road Traffic Act], Mar. 5, 2003, BGBl. I at 310, 919, as amended, § 24, para. 1, sentence 1, German Laws Online website.)

Finally, the general rules for stopping and parking applicable to vehicles apply to light electric vehicles as well. (Light Electric Vehicles Regulation § 9; Straßenverkehrs-Ordnung [StVO] [Road Traffic Regulation], Mar. 6, 2013, BGBl. I at 367, as amended, § 12, German Laws Online website.)

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Russian Federation: Experimental E-voting to Be Conducted in Moscow City Duma Elections

(June 24, 2019) On May 29, 2019, the President of the Russian Federation signed a federal law allowing experimental distance electronic voting in the elections of representatives of the Moscow City Duma (state legislature). (Russian Federation Federal Law on Conducting an Experiment on the Organization and Implementation of Remote Electronic Voting in Elections of Deputies of the Moscow City Duma of the Seventh Convocation, FL 103, May 29, 2019, Pravo official legal information website (in Russian).)

As indicated in the Law’s explanatory note, the goal of the Law is to test technological innovations in the election processes with the aim of replicating the experiment in future elections (local and federal) and amending existing elections laws, allowing integration of modern technologies in the electoral processes. (Russian Federation Federal Law on Conducting an Experiment on the Organization and Implementation of Remote Electronic Voting in Elections of Deputies of the Moscow City Duma of the Seventh Convocation, Explanatory Note, State Duma website (in Russian).)

Before FL 103’s enactment, the Moscow City Duma had adopted similar law on May 22, 2019. (Law of the City of Moscow on Conducting an Experiment on the Organization and Implementation of Remote Electronic Voting in Elections of Deputies of the Moscow City Duma of the Seventh Convocation, May 22, 2019, Moscow City Duma website (in Russian).)

The new e-voting will be conducted on September 8, 2019—the Moscow City Duma election day—in three out of 45 single-mandate districts of the Moscow City Duma. (Moscow City Election Commission, Resolution No. 95/5 on Distant Electronic Voting in the Course of the Moscow City Duma Election on September 8, 2019 (June 13, 2019), Moscow City Election Commission website (in Russian).)

FL 103 defines remote electronic voting as casting a paperless ballot utilizing special software of the regional portal of the state and municipal services of the City of Moscow.  (FL 103, art. 2.)

The new Law also establishes the authority of election commissions to carry out the experimental e-voting. (Id. art. 4.) Some of the key provisions concerning e-voting procedures are as follows:

  • The Moscow City Election Commission is to determine in which single-mandate electoral districts the e-voting will be held. (Id.)
  • The Territorial Election Commission is to establish one polling station and a Precinct Election Commission for electronic voting. (Id.)
  • The Precinct Election Commission provides for distance electronic voting, including the voting carried out on the premises of the Precinct Electoral Commission for electronic voting; reports the results of the distance electronic voting to the district electoral commission; and shares the results of the report with election observers. (Id.)
  • The procedures and standards for verifying e-voting results and reporting by the Precinct Electoral Commission are spelled out in the Law of the City of Moscow on Conducting Experimental E-voting. (Law of the City of Moscow on Conducting an Experiment on the Organization and Implementation of Remote Electronic Voting art. 10.)
  • FL 103 authorizes the Precinct Election Commission to review complains and grievances with regard to distance electronic voting. (FL 103, art. 4.)

In order to be able to vote remotely, voters must submit an application to the Moscow City Election Commission in accordance with the order established by the Moscow City Election Commission, utilizing special software issued by the regional and municipal services of the City of Moscow. (Id. art. 3, § 5.) Submitting an application for electronic distance voting does not preclude voters from participating in nonelectronic voting. Voters also have the right to withdraw their application and vote in person. (Id. art. 3, § 6.)

Blockchain technologies are envisaged for use in the Moscow City Duma’s distance electronic voting. According to Dmitrii Vyatkin, a legislator who coauthored the Law, the voting is to take place via the portal, where most Muscovites are registered. To access the system, voters also need to provide a unique code sent to them via text message. Technology will enable separate storage of voters’ personal data and election results, thus ensuring the secrecy of the vote. (Electronic Voting in Moscow State Duma Elections Will Be Protected by Blockchain Technology, TASS (Feb. 26, 2019) (in Russian).)

The Russian Federation is not the first country in the region to introduce e-voting. Estonia also uses e-voting, which it instituted in 2005. (I-voting, E-ESTONIA (last visited June 20, 2019).) However, the Estonian system differs from the Russian system. Under the Estonian system, voters can cast as many ballots as they want during the designated pre-voting period, with each new vote cancelling out the previous one. Thus, voters have the option of changing their votes before the final voting on election day. (Id.) In addition, voters in the Estonian system do not apply in person to the electoral commission to verify their identity and gain access to the e-voting system. (Id.) The personal data of Estonian voters are stored on personal digital identification documents that allow voters to access e-government services, including voting. (Id.) The Estonian e-voting system also enables voters to cast their vote from any computer or electronic device connected to the internet without the need to use specialized software or obtain a special code to access the portal.

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Lebanon: Government Undertakes National Anticorruption Campaign

(June 24, 2019) On March 13, 2019, in a response to media and social network reports of ongoing major corruption investigations of judges and lawyers, Lebanon’s minister of justice, Albert Sarhan, confirmed to the National News Agency that he is coordinating and keeping abreast of these investigations aimed at rooting out corruption in the judiciary and other relevant institutions. (Minister of Justice: We Will Work to Eradicate Corruption in the Judiciary and Other Relevant Institutions, NEW TV (Mar. 13, 2019) (in Arabic).)

In accordance with a recommendation from the country’s Judicial Inspection Board, Sarhan has decided to suspend three judges and refer their cases to the Judicial Disciplinary Authority. (Youssef Diab, Anticorruption Measures Spark a War Among Lebanon’s Judges, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (Apr. 2, 2019) (in Arabic).) Notably, the corruption investigations are not limited to junior officers—they have primarily been directed at senior officials, who historically have felt entitled to exploit government resources for their personal benefit yet remain protected from accountability by political and sectarian alliances. (Id.)

In a case involving one of the biggest drug dealers in Lebanon, Sarhan has also authorized the prosecution of six judicial clerks suspected of involvement in obtaining a $600,000 bribe to manipulate the dealer’s judicial file by reducing the charges against him and introducing false medical reports, all in an effort to secure his release. (Youssef Diab, “War on Corruption” Reaches Door of Judiciary: Prosecution Seeks Authorization to Go After Doctors and Lawyers, Aims at Revoking Immunities, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (Mar. 11, 2019) (in Arabic).)

National Anticorruption Commission

Transparency International has documented Lebanon’s serious problems with corruption, ranking it 138th out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index for 2018. (Samar Kadi, Lebanon’s Uphill Battle Against Corruption, ARAB WEEKLY (Feb. 2, 2019) (in Arabic).) This high level of corruption becomes a great obstacle in receiving the international financial support and investment that would mitigate the country’s high public debt and widespread poverty. (Id.)

In an effort to establish a government entity responsible for holding corrupt officials accountable, the Lebanese Parliament’s Committee of Finance and Budget endorsed legislation on December 19, 2018, to establish a National Anticorruption Commission. The Commission is tasked with executing anticorruption laws enacted by the Parliament and overseeing the application of future anticorruption laws yet to be proposed and ratified. (Finance and Budget Committee Approves Proposed Public-Sector Anticorruption Law, LEBANESE PARLIAMENT (Dec. 19, 2018) (in Arabic).) The Commission has the authority to submit for prosecution any corruption violations committed by public officials, as well as impose travel bans on indicted officials and lift the secrecy of their bank accounts. (Id.)

The Parliamentary consensus on the adoption of the Anticorruption Commission law is rather unprecedented, unlike the usual partisanship exhibited in discussing other bills. (Yousef Diab, Lebanon Accelerating Steps to Establish National Anticorruption Commission, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (Mar. 16, 2019) (in Arabic).) So far, the Parliament has passed three anticorruption laws: the Law on the Right to Access Information (January 19, 2017), Law on Protecting Whistleblowers (September 24, 2018), and Law to Fight Corruption in Oil and Gas Contracts (October 10, 2018).

Whistleblowers Protection Law

Since Lebanon’s ratification on October 10, 2006, of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the Lebanese government has been committed to enacting competent laws to translate its treaty obligation into a set of legislative actions. On September 24, 2018, the Lebanese Parliament approved a draft law aimed at protecting whistleblowers and asserting that the disclosure of corruption malfeasance does not constitute a violation of professional confidentiality. The law covers any person who holds a legislative, judicial, executive, administrative, military, or security position, whether appointed or elected, permanent or temporary, paid or unpaid. (Law No. 83 of 2018 on Protecting Whistleblowers art. 1(e), AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYAH [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] vol. 45 (10 Oct. 2018) (in Arabic).)

The Law embraces a narrow definition of corruption as the official exploitation of power, excluding private sector corruption (Id. art. 1.).

Equally important, the Law provides for the protection of whistleblowers from actions that would jeopardize their employment, such as disciplinary proceedings, dismissal, suspension, and demotion. It also calls for the prevention of any personal harm, such as threats or retaliatory actions, to whistleblowers and their family members (id. art. 7), and imposes massive fines on persons responsible for inflicting harm on whistleblowers (id. art. 11).

Notably, the new Law establishes a budget authorization for disbursing funds as a reward to individuals for reporting cases of corruption. (Id. art. 13.) It also authorizes the National Anticorruption Commission to grant rewards if the disclosure leads to the recovery of funds or the prevention of financial loss to a government agency. (Id. art. 14.)

Finally, the Law proscribes the Commission or any of its members from disclosing the identity of whistleblowers without their consent, and designates such disclosure as a criminal offense. On the other hand, the Law permits enlisting whistleblowers as witnesses if they provide their explicit consent. (Id. art. 6.)

This article was written by John Al Saddy, Foreign Law Consultant, under the supervision of Foreign Law Specialist George Sadek.

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