Meeting international obligations would pose only light burden in Medellin case

Richard C. Dieter [Executive Director, Death Penalty Information Center]: "There is no question that treaties that have been signed and ratifed by the U.S. government are the "law of the land" and can be binding on states with the same force as federal law. The U.S. is bound by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and by the decision of the International Court of Justice regarding our failure to abide by that treaty. The U.S. Supreme Court in Medellin held that the protocol to the Vienna Convention empowering the ICJ was not a "self-executing" treaty and hence required an act of Congress and the President's signature to hold Texas to this ruling. It is not true, as some in Texas have maintained, that the state does not have to abide by international treaties or ICJ rulings. If Congress had taken the necessary steps and spelled out the implications of this treaty, which Congress still could do, then the treaty would compel Texas to take action.

In the absence of Congressional action, the decision for Texas is whether to assist our country in honoring its treaty obligations or to pass up this opportunity for the sake of having a swifter execution. U.S. citizens constantly take advantage of the Vienna Convention when they are traveling abroad. We trust other countries to let our citizens know that they can contact the U.S. consulate should they get accused of a crime. If that trust is not reciprocated here, it could put our citizens in a dangerous position.

A terrible crime was committed in Texas and the state has the right to seek justice and to impose punishment. The burden on Texas, if it should choose to help the U.S. meet its international obligations, is relatively slight: a review of the relevant cases in light of the fact that the defendants were not afforded their rights under the Vienna Convention. This need not take excessive time or resources, and it would go a long way to strengthening our standing in the international community."

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