Texas will, no doubt, be jumping up and down and celebrating.
The Bush administration has decided to pull out of an international agreement that opponents of the death penalty have used to fight the sentences of foreigners on death row in the United States, officials said yesterday.
In a two-paragraph letter dated March 7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that the United States "hereby withdraws" from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The United States proposed the protocol in 1963 and ratified it -- along with the rest of the Vienna Convention -- in 1969. The protocol requires signatories to let the International Court of Justice (ICJ) make the final decision when their citizens say they have been illegally denied the right to see a home-country diplomat when jailed abroad. [...] Some said the decision would weaken both protections for U.S. citizens abroad and the idea of reciprocal obligation that the protocol embodied.
"It's encouraging that the president wants to comply with the ICJ judgment" in the Mexicans' case, said Frederic L. Kirgis, a professor of international law at Washington and Lee University. "But it's discouraging that it's now saying we're taking our marbles and going home."
The State Department, however, notes that fewer than 30 percent of the signatories to the Vienna Convention had agreed to the protocol. Among those that had not done so are Spain, Brazil and Canada, officials said....
Of course, most of those who declined to agree to the protocol also don't have death penalties, so people will likely be alive a bit longer in those countries to protest their sentences.
One wonders what this administration thinks it's doing. It's clear that they don't care that this is going to hurt US citizens who get arrested abroad -- after all, if the US doesn't think it's all that important, why should its citizens be allowed to seek consular help? The isolationist streak in this administration is truly remarkable to see; they seem to think that, despite the fact that we're a net importer of ... well, everything, including money itself (so to speak) that we can somehow go it alone in the world at large. You'd think they'd have ample evidence that this isn't true, but apparently not.
Meanwhile, the president's decision has thrown the Supreme Court case regarding the Mexicans into limbo. Some legal analysts suggest the case may now be moot.
Attorneys for Jose Ernesto Medellin, a convicted murderer on death row in Texas who is seeking review of his assertion that a lack of consular access harmed his case at trial, have asked the justices to put the case on hold until after Medellin has had his hearing in Texas state court.
The Texas attorney general's office, meanwhile, issued a statement Tuesday saying, "We respectfully believe" that the president's decision "exceeds constitutional bounds for federal authority."
Given Texas' stated response to the president's directive, Medellin's attorneys are ... unwise, to put it mildly, to seek to have the case put on hold until after a hearing in Texas state court. There is no guarantee that there will be a hearing; Texas has in fact a very good case for stating that the president's directive exceeds his statutory authority. For that matter, even if the Supreme Court directs Texas to hold a hearing, there's no guarantee that it will be meaningful; Texas has a long history of taking Supreme Court directives, twisting the plain meaning, and then doing over what they did in the first place.Posted by iain at March 10, 2005 01:04 PM