A Cautious Man
March 10, 2005
 
Roulette, That’s The Game Now
Apparently, the Bush Administration's obsessive devotion to a capital punishment culture, trumps its interest in protecting Americans abroad. As reported in the news today:
The United States has withdrawn from an accord that lets an international court decide disputes over foreign inmates, an agreement U.S. death penalty opponents have been using to fight death row cases.

The decision followed an International Court of Justice ruling last year that ordered new hearings for 51 Mexican death row inmates because U.S. authorities did not tell them they could consult diplomats from their own country right after their arrests.

The withdrawal was likely to anger Mexico, which opposes the U.S. death penalty, on the day Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left for a visit to the southern U.S. neighbor.

The United States initially backed the Vienna Convention protocol, hoping it would further protect its citizens detained abroad. But its withdrawal reflects a determination to counteract international pressure over the U.S. death penalty.

"We are protecting against future International Court of Justice judgments that might similarly interfere in ways we did not anticipate when we joined the optional protocol," State Department spokesman Steve Pike said.
I guess the part they say we "did not anticipate" was that the U.S. would have to comply, and provide the same protections to citizens of other countries, as we would want for ours. That's how these things work, they're reciprocal. By the same token, by saying that we will not longer provide this protection to the citizens of other countries, we remove the same protections from our own citizens.

Just to be clear, the protocol which we withdrew from provided that the International Court of Justice could review of the actions of any country, if it did not provide our citizens with their rights under this article of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations:
Article 36
COMMUNICATION AND CONTACT WITH NATIONALS OF THE SENDING STATE

1. With a view to facilitating the exercise of consular functions relating to nationals of the sending State:

(a) consular officers shall be free to communicate with nationals of the sending State and to have access to them. Nationals of the sending State shall have the same freedom with respect to communication with and access to consular officers of the sending State;

(b) if he so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall, without delay, inform the consular post of the sending State if, within its consular district, a national of that State is arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner. Any communication addressed to the consular post by the person arrested, in prison, custody or detention shall also be forwarded by the said authorities without delay. The said authorities shall inform the person concerned without delay of his rights under this sub-paragraph;

(c) consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation. They shall also have the right to visit any national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention in their district in pursuance of a judgment. Nevertheless, consular officers shall refrain from taking action on behalf of a national who is in prison, custody or detention if he expressly opposes such action.

2. The rights referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the receiving State, subject to the proviso, however, that the said laws and regulations must enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights accorded under this Article are intended.
What does this mean for us? Well, if you compare the list of countries which are signatories to this protocol, with Amnesty International's list of countries that impose the death penalty, you'll find that these are the places where a U.S. citizen has no legal recourse if he is condemned to death, even if his right to contact with and assistance from the U.S. embassy is denied:
Cameroon, China, Congo (Democratic Republic), Gabon, India, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines.
In short, because of its obsession with the death penalty, the Administration has chosen to remove an American's protection against arrest and death at the hands of these foreign governments.

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