Monday, January 19, 2009

World Court: U.S. defied order in Texas death row case

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The judgment ended a five-year cascade of proceedings in the wake of a 2004 decision by the same court that the U.S. had violated an international treaty by failing to advise 51 Mexicans of their consular rights. The court required that each case be reviewed to determine whether the lack of diplomatic access could have affected the outcome of their cases.

The U.S. had argued to the tribunal, also known as the World Court, that the federal government had done all it could, but that it had no authority to tell the state courts what to do.

Mexico argued, however, that U.S. obligations to abide by international law also applied to its state governments.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that President George W. Bush had exceeded his authority when he issued a directive in 2005 to the states to comply with the demand by the U.N. court for a judicial review of all cases.

Following that ruling, Mexico hurriedly petitioned the World Court to stop the impending executions of five of its citizens. The court issued an emergency injunction last July, but three weeks later Texas prison authorities gave a lethal injection to Jose Medellin, convicted of the rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston.

The 12 U.N. judges unanimously ruled the U.S. “has breached the obligation incumbent upon it” in the Medellin case.

Bellinger said that ruling was “not a rebuke or a reprimand. It was simply a finding.”

Human Rights Watch urged the incoming administration of Barack Obama to heed the court’s ruling and “to show the world that it will respect the rule of law, even when it’s politically unpopular at home.”

The World Court is the U.N. body that adjudicates disputes among states. Its judgments are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no enforcement powers.

More here.

So I've already put in my two cents on this a while back, but I'm still left with a very perplexing question: if American hostility toward the World Court and the UN in general is so strong, why the hell does the US continue to be a signatory to the treaties establishing these bodies? I mean, like I said last July, ratified treaties, according to the Constitution, are "the law of the land." Like it or not, the World Court does indeed have jurisdiction in America, despite US Supreme Court rulings to the contrary--okay, I understand that Supreme Court decisions are also "the law of the land," but this one striking down the World Court Medellin decision is a really bad call, destined to be reversed one day when Roberts, Alito, Thomas et al. are being eaten by worms.

But that's beside the point. It is rabidly clear that the US establishment so disrespects the UN and the World Court that it is willing to violate the Constitution in order to undermine their foreign influence. Why not just get the hell out? It is maddening to sit on the sidelines year after year watching our leaders laud the UN when it does what they want while damning the organization when it doesn't. What's the point? If we really hate the UN then fuck 'em. Get out. If not, then shut the fuck up.

We really do deal with the world as though we were a drunken tyrannical asshole father.