UN's highest court tells Texas not to execute foreign nationals

No, Texas doesn’t have to obey. Not yet.

The U.N.’s highest court ordered U.S. authorities today to do everything possible to halt the executions of five Mexicans in Texas until their cases are reviewed…

The World Court told U.S. authorities in 2004 to review the cases of 51 Mexicans sentenced to death by state courts after finding they had been denied the right to seek help from consular officials.

The World Court has no enforcement powers but President Bush issued a directive to the Texas courts to abide by the 2004 ruling.

Yes indeed, Bush intervened on behalf of the convicts, going so far as to issue an executive memorandum demanding that Texas follow the World Court’s decision per America’s obligations under the Vienna Convention on consular relations. (The defendants’ complaint is that they were never informed of their international Miranda right to contact their local consulate for help.) Whether that was a typical knee-jerk Bush reaction in wanting to expand executive power or a typical knee-jerk Bush reaction in wanting to make the Mexican government happy, I’m not sure. The Supreme Court found the memorandum unconstitutional earlier this year in Medellin v. Texas — not because state courts can’t be made to follow rulings by international tribunals but because Congress hasn’t yet passed any specific federal statute to make the Vienna Convention binding on them. Once they do, then per the Constitution’s treaty and supremacy clauses, presumably everything’s jake. Worth noting: It was the five conservatives who stopped Bush in this case, with Stevens concurring in the judgment. Breyer, Ginsburg, and Souter not only would have read the Vienna Convention to be “self-executing,” i.e. applicable to the states without any action needed from Congress, they hinted that Bush should have more leeway to intervene at the state level in foreign affairs matters so long as he’s not acting against Congress’s will. Funny how notions of executive power change, on both sides, when they contradict the desired result. Oh well.

Here’s the actual World Court ruling. Held: “The United States of America shall take all measures necessary to ensure that Messrs. José Ernesto Medellín Rojas, César Roberto Fierro Reyna, Rubén Ramírez Cárdenas, Humberto Leal García, and Roberto Moreno Ramos are not executed pending judgment on the Request for interpretation submitted by the United Mexican States, unless and until these five Mexican nationals receive review and reconsideration consistent with paragraphs 138 to 141 of the Court’s Judgment delivered on 31 March 2004 in the case concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America)…” Read the full AP story linked up top and you’ll find a clever argument within from the State Department’s lawyer, namely, that because the U.S. government agrees with the Mexican government in this case, there’s no international dispute cognizable by the court’s jurisdiction. It’s Texas that disagrees with Mexico, not Bush — a brilliant federalist stroke, which naturally enough failed. Read this post on Medellin too by Ilya Somin at Volokh’s site wondering why Americans should follow the rulings of a court partly comprised of judges from totalitarian countries. Exit question: If our popularly elected Democratic Congress votes to follow enable them, isn’t that all the legitimacy they need?

Update: Almost forgot to mention, the crime here was the gang rape and murder of two teenaged girls. Which brings me to a follow-up question: If Pelosi and company did start outsourcing criminal sentences from juries to international courts, how much could it hurt their approval rating? (Answer: Not much!)

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Duane Patterson 2:01 PM on June 05, 2023