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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gov Perry Endangers Americans Abroad

Governor Perry, in a move that will endanger not only Texans but all Americans abroad, says that he will go ahead with an execution despite a ruling by the World Court that an upcoming Texas execution should be stayed. Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations ("Vienna Convention") requires that people detained in a foreign country be advised of their rights to contact consular officials of their own country, but a person from Mexico scheduled for execution in Huntsville on Aug 5 was not advised of his rights under the Vienna Convention.

Perry's decision will endanger Americans traveling abroad who are arrested in another country and want to consult with the U.S. consulate, as is their right under the treaty signed by the United States. The United States must abide by the international agreements it signs, if it does not, then it loses power to protect its national interests or, in this case, to protect Americans who are detained in other countries. President Bush agrees with the World Court in this case, probably because as president he recognizes his responsibilites to protect Americans abroad and to abide by treaties that this country has signed.

I lived many years abroad, so Perry's indifference to the impact his policy could have on Americans abroad strikes close to home for me. If an American traveling abroad is detained by officials in a foreign country, they should be able to contact the American embassy or consulate and receive advice on that country's legal system. However, Perry has undermined the rights of Americans traveling abroad by not protecting the rights of non-citizens in America.

If a Texan being detained by police in another country asserts their rights under the Vienna Convention, the foreign authorities could now respond, "Sorry, Rick Perry and the government of Texas does not recognize the protections of the Vienna Convention, so your request is denied."

The Vienna Convention, as are all treaties between the United States and other countries, is part of the supreme law of the United States according to the U.S. Constitution. Abiding by the ruling of the World Court would not undermine American sovereignty, it would bolster it. We are a nation of laws. The Vienna Convention is one of our laws. We should abide by it.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Texas will go ahead with the scheduled Aug. 5 execution of Houston rapist-killer Jose Medellin despite Wednesday's United Nations world court order for a stay, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry said.The UN's International Court of Justice's call for stays in the cases of Medellin and four other Mexican nationals awaiting execution in Texas came in response to a petition filed last month by the Mexican government.The petition sought to halt executions to allow for review of the killers' cases to determine whether denying them access to the Mexican Consulate after arrest harmed their trial defenses.The Geneva Convention stipulates that, upon request, an alien offender's national consulate must be notified of an arrest.and

International law expert Sarah Cleveland, a professor of human and constitutional rights at New York City's Columbia Law School, said in an e-mail that if the U.S. fails to act on the world court order, other countries may follow suit."This can only come back to hurt U.S. citizens when they are detained abroad," she wrote." ... When a global leader like the U.S. refuses to comply with its clear international legal obligations (and everyone agrees that this is a clear legal obligation), it undermines the willingness of other states to comply with their own obligations and it inspires them not to trust us to obey ours."
Governor Perry should ask the Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend a stay for Medellin and he should urge Congress to pass the “Avena Case Implementation Act of 2008”. That legislation would empower the federal courts to hear the Vienna Convention claims of foreign nationals who were not advised of their consular rights, including the Mexican nationals named in the Avena judgment. The legislation has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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