Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How much harm will the TX decision to refuse 2 foreign nationals their rights due to the Vienna Conventions do to US citizens abroad?


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed serious concern over the decision by authorities in Texas to proceed with the execution of Mexican national José Ernesto Medellín -- despite an order to the contrary by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Medellín was executed by lethal injection on 5 August.

OHCHR stresses that the United States has an international legal obligation to comply with decisions of the ICJ, an obligation which cannot be set aside because of domestic constitutional arrangements. The Office also notes that the ICJ orders remain valid for another 50 Mexican nationals on death row in the United States.

OHCHR adds that the finality of the death penalty makes it essential that it is applied with scrupulous attention to the safeguards set down by international law, including access to consular services by foreign nationals.

Abstract from "Protecting them protects us" (LA Times, 8/4/08)

In one of his earliest comedies, Woody Allen had a stereotypical pompous U.S. ambassador bellow to an equally stereotypical group of thuggish Eastern European cops that no American could be dragged off and shot without his personal approval.

The ambassador's shout was an understandable, if tortured, explication of something we all know and value: Our diplomatic and consular officials overseas have a primordial responsibility to protect the rights and interests of our citizens traveling and working abroad. The right of people traveling abroad to have immediate assistance from their consulates is so basic that it is enshrined in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, a global treaty endorsed by the United States and about 170 other nations.

No citizen is more in need of consular support than one who faces the terrifying ordeal of arrest and imprisonment under a foreign legal system. Immediate access to a consular representative provides trustworthy guidance through the morass of a bewildering judicial process and affords a secure link to home. In some parts of the world, consular assistance is all that stands between foreign prisoners and abuse, torture or even death in custody.

Because thousands of U.S. citizens are jailed abroad every year (sometimes for no good reason), anything that diminishes the power of American consuls to assist them in their time of need is cause for concern. Yet current developments in our own nation are threatening the power of American consuls.[...]

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, in the Medellin vs. Texas decision issued in March, held that although the United States -- and its individual states -- are indeed bound by international law to comply with the International Court of Justice decision, neither that decision nor President Bush's directive is directly enforceable in domestic courts without action on the part of Congress. On July 14, legislation was introduced in the House calling for the implementation of the ICJ's judgment. On July 16, the U.N. court again issued an order directing the United States to prevent the imminent execution of five of the Mexican nationals on death row in Texas.

Thus far, Texas has refused to stay its hand until Congress can act, and instead is proceeding toward the execution Tuesday of Jose Medellin, one of the Mexican nationals.

So we now find ourselves on the brink of an irrevocable violation of the most important treaty governing consular assistance for our citizens detained in other countries. A failure to comply with this most basic of treaty commitments would significantly impair the ability of our diplomats and leaders to protect the interests -- individual and collective -- of Americans abroad. Were the tables turned -- American citizens arrested abroad and denied consular access, with an ICJ judgment requiring review of those cases for prejudice, and another nation refusing to comply -- our leaders would rightly demand that compliance be forthcoming.[...]

This article was written before Jose Medellin and Heliberto Chi were executed - Texas did exactly what the author of this article had feared. And it's not the first time the United States did not act due to the international treaties it had signed. Just think of the brothers LeGrand for example. It seems as if the American authorities want to send a signal to other countries that the US definitely does not care about these international treaties....

The only thing which seems to be left for all of us to do is to pray that other countries don't take the United States for an example on how to implement international treaties since this could actually be endangering the lives of innocent people who happen to get arrested abroad

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