March 26, 2008
The international implications of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision (Medellin v Texas) that President Bush had no power to tell the state of Texas to reopen a death penalty case, need careful study.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled in 2004 that 51 Mexican nationals sentenced to death in the US were entitled to new hearings, as the government failed to comply with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (Article 36), which required it immediately to notify foreign nationals of their right to seek assistance from their consulates.
Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the 6-3 majority, said that no-one had “identified a single nation that treats ICJ judgments as binding in domestic courts.” He acknowledged that that the President was seeking to foster observance of the Convention and good relations with other countries.
The dissenting judges said that the court’s conclusion “erects legalistic hurdles that can threaten the application of provisions in many existing commercial and other treaties and make it more difficult to negotiate new ones.” Congress had done nothing to suggest that it disagreed with the President’s stand.Author : Stanley Crossick