Professor Paul Robinson's fall seminar at the University of Pennsylvania Law School offered a unique opportunity for ambitious students: a chance to make law, rather than just study it. \nBut there was a catch. The students' client would be a regime that has outlawed dissent, jailed pro-democracy demonstrators and been accused by Amnesty International of "endemic torture and unfair trials." \nAs part of a project sponsored by the UN, the class's sole task would be to craft an updated crime code for the Republic of Maldives, an island nation of 278,000 people in the Indian Ocean. \nThe code was to be based on the Shariah, a body of Islamic law that fundamentalist nations have used to subjugate women, crush free religious expression and impose personal behavior laws criminalizing homosexuality, alcohol consumption and sex outside marriage. \nTo third-year law student Tom Stenson, the challenge was too important to pass up. \n"Is there a way to convince people that there is an Islamic alternative that doesn't include all the unpleasant practices? I think so," he said. "The criminal code that we'd like to present will comply with human rights norms. It will treat men and women equally. I don't think any of us would stand by and create a document that could be used for repression." \nFifty students applied for a seat in the class. Eighteen were accepted and have been immersed in the project for several weeks. The students work with high-ranking Maldivian officials, and their final draft will be submitted to the country's parliament. \nSo far, many of the issues they tackled differ little from what they might encounter while streamlining laws in the West. \nStenson has been working on theft and kidnapping statutes. Other students have been codifying laws regarding fraud, forgery and rules on criminal culpability. \nIn interviews, several students said they have found little in Islamic law that requires the strict enforcement of centuries-old social norms favored by some Muslim scholars, and much in it that promotes social justice. \nTheir work doesn't sit well with everyone. \nDaniel Pipes, head of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum and a presidential appointee to the US Institute of Peace, said it was a mistake for the class to do anything that could help prop up Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the dictator who has ruled Maldives since 1978. \n"It's like working on the criminal law in Saddam Hussein's Iraq," Pipes said. \nPipes, a critic of militant Islam, called the Shariah incompatible with many Western values, including freedom of religion, gender equality and the separation of church and state. He said it should be rejected as a source of state law, "not made prettier." \nThe criticism hasn't deterred Robinson, who sat on the US Sentencing Commission and has helped several nations revise their legal systems. \nHe said the brand of Islamic law practiced in Maldives is a far cry from the systems imposed in Saudi Arabia or under the Taliban in Afghanistan. \n"Maldivians stopped using the death penalty half a century ago. They don't cut off the hands of thieves. They don't have public stoning of adulterers," he said. \n"It is probably true that there are going to be differences we don't approve of, but what you have to understand is they were the ones who decided who to approach, and they approached us. That choice, by itself, tells you where they are headed." \nHe said he expects to present a draft code to Maldives by the end of November. \nWhether it is ever implemented could depend on the resolution of evolving political tensions in the nation, which is 300 miles off the coast of India. \nOn Aug. 13, security forces cracked down after 3,000 pro-democracy demonstrators rallied in the capital. \nThe European Parliament called for sanctions last month to protest the clampdown. \nGayoom has insisted he is serious about reform, including constitutional changes that would allow people to join opposition parties.
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,