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Brazil: New Code of Civil Procedure Approved by Federal Senate

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(Dec 19, 2014) On December 17, 2014, the Brazilian Federal Senate approved a new Code of Civil Procedure that will enter into force one year after it is signed by President Dilma Roussef. The current Code of Civil Procedure was enacted in 1973. (Código de Processo Civil, Lei No. 5.869, de 11 de Janeiro de 1973, PLANALTO.) It has been criticized for providing too many possibilities for delays in the civil procedure process.

The text of the new Code was analyzed for five years by the National Congress, and its purpose is to simplify the civil process and make it faster and more transparent. (Gorette Brandão, Novo Código de Processo Civil Vai à Sanção Presidencial, SENADO FEDERAL (Dec. 17, 2014).)

Some of the changes provided for in the new Code include:

• providing for conciliation hearings to be held at the beginning of the process to enable the parties to reach an agreement that would avoid having the case go to trial;

• requiring that cases be heard in chronological order to prevent recent cases from being heard first, with exceptions allowed;

• imposing a penalty fee on a party that makes too many appeals for the sole purpose of delaying the decision of the case;

• allowing for the possibility of an individual action becoming a collective action if the result could reach a large number of people; and

• mandating that decisions of the superior courts are to guide similar cases adjudicated by the lower courts. (Mariana Jungmann, Senado Conclui Votação e Novo Código de Processo Civil Vai à Sanção Presidencial, AGÊNCIA BRASIL (Dec. 17, 2014).)

Author: Eduardo Soares More by this author
Topic: Civil procedure More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Brazil More about this jurisdiction

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Bahrain; Egypt: Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Legal Cooperation Signed

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(Dec 19, 2014) On December 4, 2014, the Egyptian Attorney General, Hisham Barakat, and his Bahraini counterpart, Attorney General Ali Fadl al-Bouainine, signed a memorandum of understanding in the field of legal cooperation. (The Signing of a Memorandum of Legal Cooperation Between Egypt and Bahrain, AKHDARELYOM (Dec. 4, 2014) (in Arabic).)

This cooperation comes within the framework of developing public prosecution work in the two countries and improving joint cooperation in order to raise the level of institutional and technological performance, training, and research by members of each of the two nations' public prosecution services. The signing of this memorandum occurred at the conclusion of the working sessions of a conference held in Dubai by the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP). (Id.; 19th Annual Conference – 2014, IAP website (last visited Dec. 11, 2014).)

The Egyptian Attorney General also met with the Chief of the Supreme Judicial Council, the President of the Court of Cassation, and the Justice Minister of Bahrain to discuss the necessity of strengthening Arab joint legal work in order to support the fight against organized crime and develop ways of doing that work more effectively. (The Signing of a Memorandum of Legal Cooperation Between Egypt and Bahrain, supra.)

Author: Issam Saliba More by this author
Topic: Crime and law enforcement More on this topic
 Organized crime and gangs More on this topic
 Treaties and International Agreements More on this topic
 Treaties and International Agreements/European Union More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Bahrain More about this jurisdiction
 Egypt More about this jurisdiction

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Malaysia: Anti-Terrorism Law Proposed

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(Dec 19, 2014) On November 26, 2014, Malaysia's Prime Minister, Najib Razak, urged the country's parliament to adopt stronger legal safeguards against terrorism. In particular, he expressed concern about Malaysian citizens returning home with extremist views after having fought beside Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq, noting that 39 citizens had already joined IS and that its radical ideology should not be allowed to spread. (Addison Morris, Malaysia PM Proposes Anti-Terrorism Law, PAPER CHASE (Nov. 26, 2014); Teks Ucapan Pembentangan Kertas Putih Ke Arah Menangani Ancaman Kumpulan Islamic State [Speech on Presentation of White Paper to Address the Threat of the Islamic State], (Nov. 26, 2014), Office of the Prime Minister website.)

White Paper on Combating IS Threat

Also on November 26, the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat) of Malaysia's Parliament unanimously approved the government white paper tabled by the Prime Minister, entitled "Toward Combating the Threat of Islamic State." (Proposed Malaysian Anti-Terrorism Act Indicates Precautionary Risk-Mitigation Measure Rather Than Increase of Domestic Militant Activity, IHS JANE'S INTELLIGENCE REVIEW (JANE'S) (Dec. 2, 2014); Himanshu Bhatt, Putrajaya's Planned Anti-Terrorism Law May Reintroduce ISA, Says Bar Council, MALAYSIAN INSIDER (Dec. 15, 2014).)

The white paper points out the need to combat not only the threat posed by the IS but also "the alleged involvement of Malaysian jihadists within the group." (JANE'S, supra.) It also calls for a specific anti-terrorism law to be adopted and for the current relevant laws, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, the Prevention of Crime Act, and the Penal Code, to be reinforced. (Bhatt, supra; Act 747, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012; Act 297, Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (as at Aug. 1, 2014); Act 574, Penal Code (incorporating all amendments up to Jan. 1, 2006) (all three laws from LAWS OF MALAYSIA); see also Mickey Spiegel, Smoke and Mirrors: Malaysia's "New" Internal Security Act, ASIA PACIFIC BULLETIN, No. 167 (June 14, 2012).)

The motion debated by the House of Representatives on approving the white paper recognized the need for the House to be briefed on the threat to national security posed by radical Islamic groups like the IS and also the need to cooperate with the United Nations in efforts to address militant Islamic groups' threats to the state. (Kertas Putih "Ke Arah Menangani Ancaman Kumpulan Islamic State" [White Paper "Towards Combating the Threat of Islamic State"] (Nov. 26, 2014), Parliament of Malaysia website (scroll down to page 28).)

Hints of Draft Act's Content

Based on the Prime Minister's remarks, the government's proposed anti-terrorist legislation includes provisions on the rehabilitation of returned militants "who express regret for joining IS." (Morris, supra.) Moreover, during the House debate on the white paper, Minister of Home Affairs Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stated that the Act "would contain strong preventive measures" but "that this did not amount to a return of the Internal Security Act (ISA) … ." (JANE'S, supra.) The ISA, which permitted detention without charge for an indefinite period, was abolished in 2011 and replaced by the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, also known as the SOSMA Act. The draft Anti-Terrorist Act is to be tabled at the next session of Parliament, in March 2015. (Id.)

Reactions to Proposal for New Anti-Terrorist Act

In the view of IHS Jane's Intelligence Review, the government's proposal for a new Anti-Terrorism Act is being made "despite scant evidence of increased risk of attacks on Malaysian soil in the short term." Nevertheless, the fact that the proposed Act enjoys cross-party support in the parliament "means that it is highly likely to be passed." Jane's also posits that while the Act "is likely to be tougher than the current anti-terrorism law … [it] is unlikely to be as harsh as the former Internal Security Act … ." (Id.)

The President of Malaysia's Bar Council, Christopher Leong, also expressed strong reservations about the proposed new legislation. He stated, "[w]hile the bill for the proposed anti-terrorism law and the amendments to the existing laws have yet to be revealed, it is of concern that the contemplated new law and the amendments may expand the discretionary power of the authorities and permit detention without trial." (Bhatt, supra.)

Author: Wendy Zeldin More by this author
Topic: Terrorism More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Malaysia More about this jurisdiction

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Germany: Asylum Procedure Act Amended to Restrict Applicants from Balkan States

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(Dec 19, 2014) The Bundesrat (Federal Council), the upper house of Germany's parliament, has passed amendments to the country's Asylum Procedure Act that will deny as "unfounded" applications of asylum seekers from the western Balkan states of Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Germany's Upper Chamber Passes Asylum Law Reform, DW (Sept. 19, 2014).) The Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, had previously approved the proposed amendments, but an initial hearing on the measures held by the Bundesrat in June had ended with a decision to postpone consideration of them. (Id.)

Many of the asylum seekers affected by the amendments belong to the Roma ethnic group. Applications from the Balkans had represented more than a sixth of all applications for asylum in Germany in 2013 and a similarly high proportion in the first half of 2014. However, almost all of them were rejected because the applicants were deemed economic refugees and therefore ineligible for political asylum. (Id.)

Substance of the Amendments

The asylum restrictions on the Balkan States are imposed in accordance with article 29a of the Asylum Procedure Act, on "safe country of origin," and Appendix II, which lists those countries considered safe countries of origin. Article 29a, paragraph 1, states:

The asylum application of any foreigner from a country within the meaning of Article 16a (3) first sentence of the Basic Law (safe country of origin) shall be turned down as being manifestly unfounded, unless the facts or evidence produced by the foreigner give reason to believe that he faces political persecution in his/her country of origin in spite of the general situation there. (Asylum Procedure Act (as last amended by art. 4 of the Act of Nov. 22, 2011, BGBl I 2258), JURIS [toggle for text in German, as last amended by art. 1 of the recently passed amending act].)

Appendix II, which formerly had included only Ghana and the Republic of Senegal, now also includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia. (Gesetz zur Einstufung weiterer Staaten als sichere Herkunftsstaaten und zur Erleichterung des Arbeitsmarktzugangs für Asylbewerber und geduldete Ausländer [Act on the Classification of Other Countries as Safe Countries of Origin and to Facilitate Labor Market Access for Asylum Seekers and Tolerated Foreigners] [Amending Act] (Oct. 31, 2014), BGBl. I 2014, 1649 (Nov. 5, 2014), art. 1 ¶ 2 (amending Appendix II to Asylum Procedure Act, art. 29a), Federal Gazette website [cut and paste title of Act or "BGB1. I 2014, 1649" in browser and follow links, if necessary to view text].)

Aside from the restrictions imposed on asylum seekers from the three Balkan states, the amendments provide for other changes in the Asylum Procedure Act, including shortening the ban on refugees' employment from nine months to three. (Amending Act, art. 1 ¶ 1 (amending art. 61 ¶ 2, sentence 1, of the Asylum Procedure Act).)

Article 2 of the amending act provides for a change in the Employment Ordinance, so that the prior requirement of one year's waiting period in order for asylees resident in Germany to be allowed to remain is reduced to three months. (Amending Act, art. 2; Verordnung über die Beschäftigung von Ausländerinnen und Ausländern (Beschäftigungsverordnung - BeschV) [Regulation on the Employment of Foreign Nationals (Employment Ordinance - BeschV)] (June 6, 2013), BGBl. I S. 1499, as amended by art. 2, Regulation of Nov. 6, 2014, BGBl I S. 1683, JURIS; LEAFLET 7: EMPLOYMENT OF FOREIGN WORKERS IN GERMANY, Federal Employment Agency website (revised July 2013), at 17.)

As further pointed out by Baden-Württemberg State Premier Winfried Kretschmann, residence restrictions on asylees will be lifted after their fourth month in the country, whereupon they will be free to move about within Germany. (Germany's Upper Chamber Passes Asylum Law Reform, supra.) "After 15 months," according to Kretschmann, "the priority review at German job centers will be waived, meaning that officials will no longer have to prove that there is no suitable German applicant for a job opening. Workers in occupations where there is a shortage of candidates and academics are exempt from this" (i.e., from the priority review). (Id.; Regulation on the Employment of Foreign Nationals, § 32.) The amendments also eliminate application of the principle of benefit in kind to refugees living outside of the initial refugee camps; instead, the refugees will be given money and will be able to decide for themselves, for example, the kind of food they wish to buy. (Germany's Upper Chamber Passes Asylum Law Reform, supra.)

View from the Ground

Those who seek asylum in Germany are placed in the country's various federal states, where they are first assigned to a central facility and later to the supervision of local authorities; cities and communities must provide for their accommodation and care. However, with a greater number of refugees, those local authorities have reported problems in providing such housing and care, and they have called upon national and state authorities for assistance. (Id.) The cities and towns have also called for the asylum process to be shortened. Refugees reportedly must wait on average seven months, but often a year or more, in order for their applications to be processed, "much longer than was intended" and not in conformity with the European Union's processing guideline of no longer than six months. (Id.) In response, the German government has stated that it would seek to reduce the processing time to three months, and it may provide in the 2015 budget for additional staff in the responsible offices in order to reduce the workload; resources for 300 additional employees were earmarked in the 2014 national budget. (Id.)

Author: Wendy Zeldin More by this author
Topic: Asylum More on this topic
 Immigration More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Germany More about this jurisdiction

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European Union; Lithuania: Euro Zone Membership on January 1, 2015

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(Dec 18, 2014) Lithuania, after a long and arduous process, has been found by the European Commission and the European Central Bank to meet the required criteria and will join the euro zone on January 1, 2015; as of that date it will also adopt the euro as its currency. With the addition of Lithuania, there will be 19 euro zone members. (January 1, 2015 Is €-Day for Lithuania, Delegation of the European Union to the United States website (last visited on Dec. 17, 2014).)

All 28 European Union Member States are eligible to join the euro zone, but the United Kingdom and Denmark have opted out of it. EU Members that aspire to join the euro zone must meet the economic and legal convergence criteria; that is, their national central banks and pertinent monetary policies must be compatible with the EU rules. (Adopting the Euro, European Commission: Economic and Financial Affairs website (last updated July 23, 2014).)

The economic convergence criteria that every candidate EU Member State must meet are:

1. Price stability, with the inflation rate in the applicant EU Member no higher than 1.5 percentage points above the previous year's rate for the three EU countries with the lowest inflation;
2. Budget deficit below 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP);
3. National debt not exceeding 60% of GDP;
4. Long-term interest rates of not more than two percentage points above the previous year's rate in the three EU countries with the lowest interest rates; and
5. Exchange rate stability, with the national currency exchange rate being within the authorized fluctuation margins for two consecutive years. (Convergence Criteria, European Central Bank website (last visited Dec. 17, 2014).)

The European Commission and the European Central Bank may assess the progress of a candidate EU Member in meeting the criteria to join the euro zone. The next candidate EU Member slated to join the euro zone, on January 1, 2019, is Romania. (Who Can Join and When? (last updated July 28, 2014), European Commission: Economic and Financial Affairs website.)

Author: Theresa Papademetriou More by this author
Topic: Currency More on this topic
 Finance and financial sector More on this topic
Jurisdiction: European Union More about this jurisdiction
 Lithuania More about this jurisdiction

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