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Legal Report: U.S. Federal Court Finds Saudi Prince bin Salman Immune from Assassination Charge

Judicial Decisions

United States

Assassination. A lawsuit against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud over his alleged involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was dismissed by a U.S. federal judge after it was determined that the prince is entitled to state immunity.

“Plaintiffs allege that bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s ‘ruthless torture and murder,’…and that it was planned and carried out by his accomplices,” according to court documents. “The United States has reached the same conclusion.”

Although the court acknowledged that the plaintiffs­—Democracy for the Arab World Now and Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancé—have a “meritorious” argument against bin Salman and other defendants, the suit could not proceed “at this time,” U.S. district judge John Bates wrote in December 2022 in a memorandum opinion.

The dismissal came after the U.S. Executive Branch filed a statement of interest, at the request of the court, which clarified “that bin Salman was entitled to head-of-state immunity based on his current position as Prime Minister,” according to court documents. Bin Salman was appointed to the position of prime minister for his country in late September 2022—days before a deadline to determine whether he had such immunity—by his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. (Hatice Cengiz, et al., v. Mohammed bin Salman, et al., U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 20-3009, 2022)

Marketing. E-cigarette company Juul agreed to a $5 million settlement with the Attorney General of Iowa, the latest settlement over allegations that the company marketed its nicotine products to underage consumers.

The announcement of the Iowa settlement came from Juul on 2 January 2023. (The settlement was not disclosed by the Attorney General’s office by Security Management’s press time.) Throughout 2022, the company resolved more than 5,000 cases from roughly 10,000 plaintiffs in more than 30 U.S. states. One of the latest settlements was with the Attorney General of Pennsylvania for $38 million. (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Juul Labs, Inc., Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, No. 200200962, 2022)



Legislation

United States

Discrimination. Atlanta, Georgia, amended its existing anti-discrimination law to prohibit employers from using a job applicant’s criminal record and gender expression against them. The city ordinance (EMLS #30994) also bans employers from discriminating against existing employees based on their gender expression or criminal history.

The ban extends to employment agencies, labor organizations, and training programs.  

Legalized drug use. Colorado voters passed a ballot initiative in November that decriminalizes the possession of psychedelic mushrooms.

The Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022 (Proposition 122) legalized psychedelics derived from plants or fungi for persons 21 years or older. The ballot initiative, which had support from 53 percent of the state’s voters, makes Colorado the second U.S. state to legalize psychedelics, with Oregon being the first.

By 2024, use of these drugs will be permitted in a supervised fashion at a state-regulated “healing center or another location as permitted.” These centers are sites where a user can purchase, consume, and experience the psychedelic.



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Prison security. U.S. President Joe Biden enacted a bipartisan bill ordering the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to update outdated security components.

The Prison Camera Reform Act of 2021 (PL 117-321) requires that security camera, radio, and public address systems used by the 122 BOP facilities must be upgraded. The law was introduced in September 2021, after instances of staff sexual abuse, inmate escapes, and deaths at the facilities were reported.

According to the bill, which was enacted in late December 2022, the department has 90 days (or until 27 March 2023) to evaluate its security systems and submit a plan to the U.S. Senate for upgrading the systems’ components where necessary. Along with implementing identified upgrades within three years, the BOP is also ordered to provide annual progress reports to legislators.

A watchdog for the U.S. Department of Justice determined that prisons’ inefficient camera systems endangered investigations into facility issues, including civil rights violations, contraband, inmate deaths, and staff misconduct. An investigation conducted by the Associated Press revealed that inmates at the only U.S. federal women’s prison in California were subjected to sexual abuse from prison staff, including the warden.

Another high-profile instance where a faulty camera system compromised safety was in the suicide of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in August 2019.



Regulations

Ireland

Privacy breaches. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) announced the closure of two investigations into Facebook’s parent company, Meta—specifically Meta Platforms Ireland Limited. The commission fined Meta Ireland €210 million over General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) breaches stemming from Facebook services and €180 million for breaches related to Instagram services.

The parent company was also ordered to have its data processing operations comply with the GDPR by April 2023.

The investigations were opened after two complaints were made about the services, one from an “Austrian data subject” and the other by a “Belgian data subject,” according to the DPC.

What to Watch

Security intersects with laws and regulations in many different areas. Some are developing stories that Security Management will continue to follow.

Discrimination. Convenience store company Circle K Stores Inc. agreed to an $8 million settlement in response to allegations from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC claimed that the company did not provide reasonable accommodations for its pregnant and disabled employees and that it retaliated against these employees.

Equal rights. U.S. President Joe Biden enacted the Respect for Marriage Act (PL 117-228) in December 2022. The law protects mixed-race and same-sex unions.

Fraud. Argentina’s vice president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was convicted of fraud, sentenced to a six-year prison sentence, and banned from public office. A panel of three judges found Fernandez de Kirchner guilty of granting public roadworks contracts to a family friend while she was the first lady and president. Her sentencing will not be effective until she uses up her appeals. The case is expected to be heard by the country’s Supreme Court.

Internet of Things. A 2020 law for U.S. agencies to implement cybersecurity requirements for Internet of Things devices became effective in December 2022.

Marriage. Indonesia’s parliament voted to criminalize sex that occurs outside of a marriage. While adultery was already illegal, the new changes to the country’s criminal code mean that any form of extramarital sex is punishable with up to one year in prison. The parliament also banned cohabitation before marriage.

Public health. New Zealand banned anyone born after 2008 from buying cigarettes. The new law, passed in December 2022, is part of the country’s attempt to reduce smoking levels to less than 5 percent of the country’s population by 2025.  

Religious freedom. A U.S. federal appeals court ruled in December 2022 that the U.S. Marines cannot order Sikh recruits to shave their beards, which would oppress the recruits’ religious freedoms. The decision supports the suit of three Sikh men who challenged the military unit’s policy and hope to complete training, as well as a captain hoping to serve in combat zones with his beard.

Return to office. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the American Federation of Government Employees reached a settlement agreement to resolve allegations of unfair labor practices linked to the agency’s failure to negotiate with the union over its return to office procedures in 2022.

Severance. Former Twitter employees announced that they are suing the company over its severance policies, alleging that their termination was a breach of contract and violated California’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

Surveillance. The U.S. Senate passed a bill proposing to ban federal employees from downloading or using social media app TikTok on government devices. The bill, which received unanimous consent in the Senate, arose out of national security concerns.

Tax fraud. A Manhattan jury found two Trump Organization companies guilty on multiple charges, including criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. The organization faces a maximum of $1.61 million in fines, and sentencing is scheduled for mid-January. No one from the Trump family was charged in this case.

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