Trigger Warning: Please be advised that the following article discusses issues such as drugs, abortion and shootings. Reader discretion is therefore advised.
April was another “turbulent” month in terms of legal news. Russia retaliated against the imposition of foreign sanctions by restricting gas supplies. Gun violence continued to rise in the United States as New York City was been tormented by two subway shootings this month. Meanwhile, reproductive rights in the US are under threat as more states pass legislation restricting access to abortion services. A Malaysian man’s drug trafficking case became world-known as a Singaporian court executed him despite his intellectual disability. Let us delve into April’s biggest legal news headlines below.
Russia’s “Blackmail” against Sanctions
As Russian persistence in invading Ukraine continues, many nations proceeded to impose more sanctions against Russia this past month. For example, the US filed an executive order that
“prohibits new investment in Russia, exportation of any category of services to any person located in the Russian Federation and US person facilitation of any such investment or services by a foreign person”.
Furthermore, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control enforced sanctions on Sberbank and Alfa-Bank, two major Russian banks, as well as on Garantex, a type of cryptocurrency mostly used in Russian operations. The European Union imposed further sanctions including an import ban on coal, asset freezing sanctions on major Russian banks and bans on Russian vessels entering EU ports, to name just a few. Finally, the United Kingdom announced further sanctions such as asset freezes, a ban on new investment in Russia and a termination of its dependency on Russian oil and gas by the end of 2022. Other countries like Switzerland, Poland and Japan have followed similar practice.
Previously, Putin asked "unfriendly countries" to pay for gas in rubles, which was seen as an attempt to retaliate against the sanctions already imposed. European governments rejected this demand while Germany characterised this as "blackmail". After April’s round of sanctions, Gazprom, the state-run gas company, decided to cut gas supply in Poland and Bulgaria. This came as a response to the two countries refusing to pay in rubles. This cut in gas caused an increase of 24 percent in European gas prices. With Gazprom covering 40 percent of European countries’ gas usage, it will be challenging for European countries to sever ties immediately. However, many countries have already announced that they will refrain from using Russian oil as an attempt to further destabilise Russia’s economy.
Two New York City Subway Shootings in the Month of April
Shootings continue to rise in the US as two shootings took place in April alone. The first one occurred in the Brooklyn Subway on the morning of 12 April. The shooter set off smoke bombs in a crowded subway car before opening fire, leaving at least 23 individuals injured. Ten of the victims were injured directly by gunfire, making this the worst shooting incident in the history of the NYC subway. The police announced a "person of interest" called Frank James. Specifically, they linked a pair of keys found at the crime scene to a van parked five blocks away from Kings Highway Station where the shooter allegedly got on the subway. James was eventually deemed a suspect by the police.
It was reported that none of the cameras at the station were entirely functional even though officials had been previously warned of this issue several times. The malfunction in the station’s surveillance system might have obstructed the police from determining what happened while at the same time setting back the shooter hunt. James was eventually arrested after he himself provided a tip of his location to the police. He will appear in federal court charged with “carrying out a terrorist attack on a mass transit system”. If convicted he could be sentenced with life in prison. However, officials have still not determined the motive behind the shooting.
The second attack took place just two weeks later at the Archer Avenue/Parsons Boulevard station in Queens. Two men got into a verbal dispute until one of them pulled out a gun and shot the other to death. The New York Police Department has identified a suspect but an arrest remains to be made. Interestingly, the incident occurred just a few hours after the NYPD announced that “stabbings and slashings in transit were up more than 70 percent year over year.”
More Abortion Bans by US States
As of last month, six US states have passed different versions of abortion bans and, in April, four more states proceeded to pose restrictions on abortion access. Florida Governor Ron de Santis signed a new bill that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Medical emergencies are exempted from the ban, while rape, incest or human trafficking-induced pregnancies still face the ban. Similarly, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill that makes having an abortion after six weeks illegal even in cases of rape or incest but excluding medical emergencies.
Performing an abortion under the new law would mean one could face 10 years of imprisonment and a US$ 100,000 fine. This legislation encourages civilians to sue anyone who might contribute to carrying out the abortion by rewarding at least US$ 10,000 to any successful lawsuits.
As of 13 April, Kentucky’s new 15-week abortion ban law prevented the state’s only two abortion clinics from performing the medical procedure. The two clinics sued to block the enforcement of this law and a federal judge imposed a temporary ban. However, this ban would only last 14 days or until an extension is granted.
Finally, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed legislation limiting the distribution of abortion pills. According to THIS, only physicians can provide this sort of medication and it can no longer be provided via mail. This also means that pharmacists can no longer distribute pills. Violating this law could cause someone to be charged with a Class E felony and a US$ 50,000 fine.
Singapore Court Executes Malaysian Man On Drug Charges
On 27 April, a Singaporean court executed Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a Malaysian man charged with drug trafficking. In 2009 Dharmalingam was caught trying to cross the border from Malaysia to Singapore carrying heroin and has been on death row for more than a decade. According to Singaporean law those caught carrying more than 15g of heroin are subject to the death penalty.
His case has attracted world attention because despite the fact his lawyers argued that he has an IQ level of 69, considered an intellectual disability, the government rejected his family’s appeals for clemency. A court found that he has no such disability and he in fact “knew what he was doing at the time of his crime.”
At the same time, the Malaysian Government, United Nations experts and the European Union as well as activist groups have shown their support for Naga to be spared from the death penalty. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote, “the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences is incompatible with international human rights law”.