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U.S. Withdraws from Vienna Convention Death Penalty Protocol

You had to know something was up when President Bush agreed to give the 51 Mexican death row inmates in the U.S. new hearings, as ordered by the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Now, his purpose becomes a little clearer. Wednesday, the U.S. officially withdrew from the Vienna Convention protocol it proposed and ratified in 1963:

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 provided that its signatories would grant the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the last word when their citizens raised a claim of being illegally deprived of the right to meet with a diplomat of their home country when jailed abroad.

The Administration has provided this reason for its decision:

"The International Court of Justice has interpreted the Vienna Consular Convention in ways that we had not anticipated that involved state criminal prosecutions and the death penalty, effectively asking the court to supervise our domestic criminal system," State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan said yesterday.

Withdrawal from the protocol is a way of "protecting against future International Court of Justice judgments that might similarly interpret the consular convention or disrupt our domestic criminal system in ways we did not anticipate when we joined the convention," Jordan added.

Background on the Mexican cases is here.

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    Well that is Bush for you! but what most people do not see is Bush and Business are getting ready to go to war with china in about one year or less. so why would bush care about international court when he knows that most nation states will not be around next year? The fact is the mexican on death row may or may not have done murder here but we have lots of our own people in mexican jails and prison got what i mean?

    Re: U.S. Withdraws from Vienna Convention Death Pe (none / 0) (#2)
    by Che's Lounge on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 01:28:12 AM EST
    Fred, I guess we're the only two up at this hour as I just got home from work. I should have just gone to bed, BUT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! History will judge this man and his associates. I'm just amazed that Bush has done so much in such a short period. He sure as hell woke ME from my induced apathy. No wonder his followers are so emboldened. So if it's a fight they want...

    Re: U.S. Withdraws from Vienna Convention Death Pe (none / 0) (#3)
    by soccerdad on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 02:58:36 AM EST
    Dog bites man! Are there any treaties that we still honor/support?

    Of course "you had to know something" but Talkleft reported his earlier "flip flop" like it was something good without any critical analysis. No wonder why Bush won.

    any thing remotely honorable or proper bushCo does, in no short time, they screw it up. echoing Fred D. (oh my gosh), the writing is on the wall, no decoder ring necessary.

    ""The International Court of Justice has interpreted the Vienna Consular Convention in ways that we had not anticipated . . ." Who would have thought, back in '63 when we ratified the protocol, that agreeing to let citizens of other countries meet with one of their diplomats when charged with a crime meant that we had to let citizens of other countries meet with their diplomats when charged with a crime?

    This is probably the base reason: "would grant the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the last word when their citizens raised a claim of being illegally deprived" Not that it makes much difference, but with the SC, Kennedy in particular, starts referencing foreign courts and countries, you are going to get a kick back, and citizens who aren't bothered. What goes around comes around.

    This is probably the base reason: "would grant the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the last word when their citizens raised a claim of being illegally deprived" When the SC, Kennedy in particular, starts referencing foreign courts and countries in US rulings, you are going to get a kick back. What goes around comes around.

    This is going to come around and bite some poor American abroad in the ass.

    I hope it's not me!

    I'm a little unclear... if the US "ratified" the Convention, doesn't it have the force of a treaty? And can the President unilaterally withdraw from a treaty that the Senate has ratified?

    When the SC, Kennedy in particular, starts referencing foreign courts and countries in US rulings, you are going to get a kick back.
    One must have a very short memory to think that Kennedy was the one who "started" referencing foreign courts and countries in US rulings, or that the practice is recent for the Supreme Court. OTOH, withdrawing from the optional protocol does not mean withdrawing from the convention itself, so the obligation remains.

    Good point, Smithsp - I don't know if Bush CAN unilaterally withdraw from a treaty that the Senate has signed. I think he might have to have a majority of the Senate to support this action.

    Good point, Smithsp - I don't know if Bush CAN unilaterally withdraw from a treaty that the Senate has signed. I think he might have to have a majority of the Senate to support this action.
    I'm not sure if the Protocol itself had a withdrawal clause (many treaties do), but generally in the US system the executive is held to have the power to abrogate treaties. I'd rather if this were not the case, but AFAIK it is.

    Re: U.S. Withdraws from Vienna Convention Death Pe (none / 0) (#15)
    by wg on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 03:38:27 PM EST
    ... I'm not sure if the Protocol itself had a withdrawal clause (many treaties do)
    it doesn't. Treaty making rights belong to the executive branch. Express approval is required for ratification, the law is silent on withdrawal. Some argue:
    ... (that) practice establishes that a president may not repeal a statute without the approval of Congress. By implication, treaties may not be terminated without the consent of the Senate or both houses of Congress ...
    Bush got sued over ABM treaty withdrawal, don't know what happened to that suit (likely dismissed). SC refused to hear all previous cases. ---
    ... effectively asking the court to supervise our domestic criminal system ...
    The experience of European community is highly telling here. EU citizens can take their cases to the European court. The disciplining (in the salutary sense) effect this had on national judiciaries in Europe has been tremendous. Judiciaries and especially criminal systems tend to go bad, grow arrogant and abusive of citizenry when permitted to stew in their own juices for too long. This country badly needs some external disciplining authority, the current state and the trends are deeply troubling. ... Also, good example for Iran, they can withdraw from nuclear nonproliferation treaty now and join other nuclear powers in the region.

    wg - Yes, Iran can. Somehow I don't think a reasonable person would advise them to do so.

    Re: U.S. Withdraws from Vienna Convention Death Pe (none / 0) (#17)
    by Andreas on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 08:33:29 AM EST
    The Bush administration has adopted a curious approach to issues of democratic rights and international law. If an international statute conflicts with its aims, it devises some method of defying it. In this spirit, the Bush administration has struck yet another blow in its worldwide crusade for democracy and freedom, summarily withdrawing from an international agreement that enforces the basic democratic right of foreign nationals to speak to consular officers when they are accused of a crime, including those that carry the death penalty. More than 100 inmates from 30 countries currently sit on death row in the United States.
    Bush administration repudiates World Court jurisdiction in death penalty cases By Kate Randall, 11 March 2005

    (And that was Joe Wilson at the time, oddly enough – the guy whose wife was “outted” as a CIA agent to get back at Wilson for making Bush look bad about the Nigerian uranium that wasn’t there
    I think you meant Niger, Alan. Geez! Never heard of the Montoya case; did this even come out during the confirmation hearings? You guys are toast. We'll keep praying for you from across the pond!

    Re: U.S. Withdraws from Vienna Convention Death Pe (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Fri Mar 11, 2005 at 11:30:29 AM EST
    And can the President unilaterally withdraw from a treaty that the Senate has ratified?
    Ask any Native American tribe, our gov't can bend the rules as THEY see fit. As for this decision, talk about regressive.

    My profanity-laden rant about this is on my blog, link above.