Sunday, 3 August 2008

Binding legal obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs.

July 17, 2008
The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
528 Senate Hart
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Joseph Biden
Chairman, Committee on Foreign
U.S. Senate
438 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Chairman, Committee on Judiciary
U.S. Senate
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
U.S. Senate
361A Senate Russell
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Richard Lugar
Ranking Member, Committee on
Foreign Relations
U.S. Senate
450 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Arlen Specter
Ranking Member, Committee on
U.S. Senate
152 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators:

In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Medellin v. Texas, we urge
congressional action to ensure that the United States lives up to its binding international
legal obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs and the United
Nations Charter. As current and past Presidents of the American Society of International
Law, writing in our personal capacities, we are concerned about the possible U.S. breach
of these obligations and the impact such breach could have on our own nationals abroad
and on our reputation as a trusted counterparty in international legal relations.
In the Medellin case, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the Bush
administration that the United States is obliged to comply with the International Court of
Justice (ICJ) judgment in the Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals
holding that the United States must provide “review and reconsideration” of the criminal
convictions of 51 Mexican nationals in the United States who were denied their Vienna
Convention rights of access to their own national consular officials when apprehended.
President Bush had issued a Memorandum to the Attorney General directing that
state courts give effect to the Avena judgment. The Supreme Court concluded, however,

that both it and the President were powerless to order such “review and reconsideration”
and that, absent voluntary action by state executives or legislatures, compliance with this
international obligation requires congressional action.
With the execution of the first of the Mexican nationals scheduled to take place in
Texas on August 5, 2008, the United States is poised irreparably to violate the Vienna
Convention and a judgment of the ICJ. Such violations of international law would set a
dangerous precedent, undermining the reciprocal Vienna Convention rights that
American citizens are entitled to enjoy while traveling, living, or working abroad.
Such violations would also damage the reputation of the United States as a nation
that respects its international legal obligations and holds others to the same high standard.
Our ability to conclude agreements binding on other countries facilitates nearly every
aspect of our international relations, including critically important issues relating to
cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts, trade, nuclear non-proliferation, environmental
protection, and international investment. Our interests in these areas dictate that we
adhere to our obligations, including those under the Vienna Convention and U.N.
Both the President and the Supreme Court have concluded that the United States
is obliged to comply with the ICJ Avena judgment. The President has recognized the
importance of such compliance to U.S. international relations. Now it falls to Congress
to legislate compliance. If you fail to do so, Americans who are detained abroad may
well lose the critical protection of ensured access to United States consular officers. We
urge that you act, and act quickly.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Lucy Reed, ASIL President
520 Madison Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10022
ASIL Past Presidents:
José Alvarez
Charles N. Brower
James H. Carter
Thomas Franck
Louis Henkin
Arthur W. Rovine
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Peter D. Trooboff
Edith Brown Weiss

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am truly hoping that Texas Governor Perry listens to the American people and not just the Texans' opinions. People need to understand the consequences that executing Jose Medelling will bring the American people who travel abroad. Medellin's lawyers are asking for a 240-day reprieve, so why can't we honor that? If we did not inform him of his right to Mexican consulate than ultimately, that is our mistake. I understand that he did not tell the authorities that he was a Mexican National, however, he was barely 18! How many 18-year-olds do you know who know the law inside and out and know what information could have a negative impact on one's case? I'm 29, and a first semester Criminal Justice student, I have already learned about American laws that I had no idea existed. Even right now, if I committed the same act as Jose, I wouldn't know, from a legal standpoint, what exactly my rights are, unless someone would tell me. I am not trying to downplay his crime, but killing him on Tuesday will not bring those two girls back, but it WILL bring a whole new set of problems to the American people as a whole. GRANT JOSE MEDELLIN A STAY, GOVERNOR PERRY! It's a simple decision, we are obligated as a country to uphold to our word and legal bindings, Texas should not be allowed to pick which obligations, that the US signed in to, that they want to follow.