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Legal News for August

JURIST – News – Legal News & Commentary
EU launches investigation into proposed Fitbit acquisition by Google
Thu, 06 Aug 2020 18:28:23 +0000

The European Commission has launched an investigation into the proposed acquisition of wearable fitness accessory company Fitbit by search engine giant Google.

Google announced in November 2019 that it would seek to acquire Fitbit. The company noted at the time that for the deal to be successful, the privacy and security of Fitbit users would have to be considered. It therefore declared that Fitbit health and wellness data would not be used for Google ads. On Tuesday, however, the Commission said it was still concerned that the deal would not only provide Google a vast amount of data, but would also give Google access to Fitbit’s technology, enabling Google to launch a similar product in the future and that could further entrench the company’s dominant market position. EU merger regulations allow the Commission to assess mergers and acquisitions involving companies valued above certain financial thresholds.

EC Executive Vice-President, Margrethe Vestager said:

The use of wearable devices by European consumers is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. This will go hand in hand with the exponential growth of data generated through these devices. This data provides key insights about the life and the health situation of the users of these devices. Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.

In response to the investigation, Rick Osterloh, Senior Vice President of Google, reiterated that Fitbit health and wellness data would not be used for Google ads. He insisted that “This deal is about devices, not data. We recently offered to make a legally binding commitment to the European Commission regarding our use of Fitbit data.” 

The Commission has until December 9th to decide if it will block the deal.

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Category: privacy
Cape Verde court approves US extradition of Maduro financier for money laundering
Thu, 06 Aug 2020 23:52:00 +0000

A Cape Verde court has approved the extradition of Columbian lawyer and businessman Alex Nain Saab Moran to the United States, where he faces charges for money laundering on behalf of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government.

Saab was arrested on 12th June 2020 on the island of Sal in Cape Verde when he was en route from Venezuela to Iran. The Venezuelan government protested Saab’s arrest, stating that the Interpol arrest notice was issued after the arrest, violating international norms as he was acting as an agent of the government and was on a humanitarian mission to buy food and medical supplies.

João do Rosário, an attorney on Saab’s legal team, told VOA’s Portuguese service that while the Court made its decision Friday, Saab’s legal team was not informed about it until Monday evening. He said that the team was considering an appeal to Cape Verde’s Supreme Court, and if the appeal failed, the team would approach the Constitutional Court.

According to the US Justice Department, Saab was indicted in July 2019 in the US federal court in Miami for participation in an alleged bribery scheme in a low-income housing project for the Maduro Regime from 2011 to 2015. Saab is alleged to have used an elaborate network of bank accounts in Venezuela and the United States that allowed him and Maduro to profit from state-run food subsidy programs.

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Category: Venezuela
Colombia Supreme Court orders ex-president Uribe placed under house arrest
Fri, 07 Aug 2020 15:19:13 +0000

Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has been placed under house arrest by order of the Supreme Court of Colombia while he is being tried for procedural fraud and witness tampering.

Uribe served as President of Colombia from 2002-2010 before being elected senator. During that time, Uribe allegedly supported the formation of paramilitary death squads. In 2012, Uribe had filed a complaint against Senator Iván Cepeda for falsely linking him to paramilitary groups. The court closed the inquiry against Cepeda in 2018, and the criminal chamber instead opened formal proceedings against Uribe.

The court said Tuesday that “[t]he order was adopted based on a rigorous legal study on the procedural reality, which indicates possible risks of obstruction of justice, regarding the future collection of evidence of allegedly criminal acts involving both Senator Álvaro Uribe and representative Álvaro Hernán Prada.” The Supreme Court is now investigating whether Uribe should be sent to jail for witness tampering and procedural fraud. The Senator may have to spend seven to eight years in jail if found guilty.

Uribe responded to the court order by tweeting, “The loss of my liberty causes me profound sadness for my wife, for my family, and for Colombians who still believe that I have done something good for the country.” Senator Iván Cepeda held an online press conference after the court’s ruling. He said, “There are no people above justice. Today something has changed in Colombia.”

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Category: Supreme Court
El Salvador court declares decree to reopen economy unconstitutional
Sun, 09 Aug 2020 04:01:45 +0000

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador Friday declared an executive decree aimed at regulating the reopening of the economy unconstitutional.

President Nayib Bukele’s Ministry of Health issued Executive Decree No. 32 last month. The decree dealt with health protocols to guarantee the right to health of people during the reactivation of the economy. It was passed to improve the poor economic state of affairs and aimed at reopening the economy in five phases.

The Court held that the decree was unconstitutional as it violated the fundamental rights of citizens. It observed that matters relating to the rights of citizens was not under the purview of the executive. The Chamber said, “Since there is no legislative decree that limits the exercise of demonstrations to the right to freedom and other fundamental rights, the Minister of Health has interfered in the competence that corresponds to the Legislative Assembly.” Judge Aldo Cáder also said, “No governing body, under any circumstances [can] invade the competence of another body.”

The Court nonetheless allowed the decree to be in force until August 23. It called for concerted efforts from the legislature and executive while formulating legislation to ensure the welfare of people.

Bukele wrote on Twitter that “[i]n all the countries of the world, governments are ordering reopening, gradually, to control the pandemic. In El Salvador, today that is also unconstitutional.”

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Category: Supreme Court
Hong Kong democracy activist challenges disqualification from poll
Fri, 07 Aug 2020 20:16:11 +0000

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong filed a lawsuit Friday challenging his disqualification from the country’s legislative council general election.

On July 30th, Hong Kong authorities barred Wong and 11 other pro-democracy activists from the elections, which were due to be held in September. Endorsing the decision of its returning officer,  the Hong Kong government reiterated in a press release that

upholding the BL [Basic Law] is a fundamental constitutional duty of every LegCo [Legislative Council] Member. People having the following behaviours could not genuinely uphold the BL and could not therefore perform the duties of a LegCo Member, i.e. advocating or promoting Hong Kong independence, self-determination or changing the system of the HKSAR by supporting Hong Kong independence as an option for self-determination; soliciting intervention by foreign governments or political authorities in relation to the HKSAR’s affairs; expressing an objection in principle to the enactment of the National Security Law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and its subsequent promulgation as a national law listed in Annex III to the BL; expressing an intention to exercise the functions of a LegCo Member by indiscriminately voting down any legislative proposals, appointments, funding applications and budgets introduced by the HKSAR Government after securing a majority in the LegCo so as to force the Government to accede to certain political demands; and refusal to recognise the PRC’s exercise of sovereignty over the HKSAR and the HKSAR’s constitutional status as a local administrative region of the PRC. 

The polls have been postponed until September 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Security Law that was passed at the end of June has been heavily criticized for suppressing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

“The reason I apply for judicial review is to make clear that the power of the returning officer keeps enlarging, they are just (pursuing a) political mission,” Reuters quoted Wong as saying. If Wong’s challenge is endorsed by the courts, other disqualifications might be similar contested.

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Category: national security law