Friday, July 22, 2011

Texas: Ruining It for Everyone

Last week, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights chastised the US for violating international law when Texas executed Humberto Leal Garcia after he was denied his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court allowed the execution to go forward, despite the recommendation by the Solicitor General to stay the execution until legislative action could be taken to bring the US into compliance. And Texas moved ahead regardless of the requests from the State Department and concerns about the serious foreign policy implications of violating international law.

It is not just the current administration that recognized the gravity of violating international law in cases like Leal Garcia's. John Bellinger, now a lawyer at Arnold & Porter in Washington, took the same position when he served as legal adviser for the State Department in the second term of the Bush administration.
“It should be obvious to anyone, including officials in Texas, that if Americans, including Texans, are arrested and detained in some other country and the United States complains that they have not been given their consular notice it will be pointed out to us that the United States doesn’t comply with our own international obligations,” Bellinger said. “It cuts the legs out from under the State Department—maybe not immediately but over the longer run—to make arguments on behalf of Americans who are detained abroad.”
Well said. For the US to have any credibility when asking other nations to respect the rule of law and respect human dignity, the federal government - AND all the states - must respect the rights of foreign nationals when they are here - even when those persons commit horrible acts.

1 comment:

  1. This post makes a good point about the effects that the execution has on reciprocity and the potential for Americans to be negatively affected. If an American committed a crime abroad and was not given access to the U.S. consulate I think the U.S. would be up in arms!

    It reminds me of that movie "Brokedown Palace" where two American girls are convicted of drug smuggling in Thailand. Even if you committed a heinous crime (as was alleged against Garcia), being incarcerated in a foreign country, with laws you are unfamiliar with, and not having your consulate help you navigate the mess would be terrifying! On top of that, being put to death! Outrageous!