Friday, March 11, 2005

Update on Medellin

In December I noted that a criminal defendant in Durham had invoked an old treaty, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, as a defense in his murder trial. The treaty requires that detained foreign nationals be informed promptly of their right to communicate with officials from their government's consulate. Which was not done in his case. His case apprently went on hold until the pending resolution of the same issue by the Supreme Court in Medellin v. Dretke, a case out of Texas involving over 50 Mexican nationals on death row. (The case will be heard March 28; briefs available here.)

About a year ago, Mexico got a judgment in the International Court of Justice declaring that the treatment of the defendants involved in the Medellin case was a treaty violation. Not impressed, the 5th Circuit Court refused to apply this ruling. The appeal of that case is what is about to be heard by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has done two interesting things. One, it has essentially rolled over in Medellin: it has informed the Suprme Court that it will order the lower courts to review the claims of the 51 defendants to hear their treaty defenses. (Mexico is happy; Texas Republicans are not.)

Now here's she second thing. Aiming to avoid such annoying procedural hassles in the future, the United States announces its withdrawal from the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Michael Froomkin has the lowdown:

The US’s decision to withdraw from the mandatory jurisdiction of the ICJ over violations of the consular convention is a poke in the eye to the ICJ. It adds its mite to the US’s increasing isolation among the civilized and cooperative nations of the world. It – quite intentionally – sets back the cause of the rule of law in the international system.

See more at SCOTUS Blog.

Over in Durham, Mr. Manacer-Hererra's case is still on hold I suppose, at least until the Supreme Court rules.

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