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Americans must understand that this decision necessarily has global implications because the death penalty is viewed internationally as a barbaric relic that violates universal human rights.


US Withdraws From The Rule Of Law: Now Death-Row Foreigners Can't File International Appeals
Posted March 13, 2005 thepeoplesvoice.org

By: Evan Augustine Peterson lll, J.D.

Can you spot the Bush administration's overarching strategy in this fact pattern? The International Court of Justice at the Hague ("ICJ") is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.  On Monday 3-7-05, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: (A) belatedly reacted to an ICJ decision last year that ordered new hearings for 51 Mexican nationals on death row in the USA; and (B) informed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in a two-paragraph letter that the USA had withdrawn itself from an "optional protocol" that made it subject to the ICJ. [1] 
A Department of State ("DOS") spokesperson later clarified: (1) that the USA had withdrawn from one "optional protocol" which gave the ICJ jurisdiction over foreign prisoner disputes under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations; but (2) that the USA had NOT withdraw from the Convention itself.  Nations that are signatories to the "optional protocol" give the ICJ "the final say in cases where foreign citizens claim they have been denied access to their own consular officials when jailed abroad."  [2]

Thus, the USA will no longer submit to the ICJ's jurisdiction over disputes between nations when they involve foreign prisoners -- especially those held on death row. 

The xenophobic Bush administration's decision to withdraw from the Vienna protocol is widely understood to be: (A) yet another indication of its unfriendliness toward international institutions, generally; and (B) retaliation against "foreign interference" in the American system of capital punishment, specifically. 

However, Americans must understand that this decision necessarily has global implications because the death penalty is viewed internationally as a barbaric relic that violates universal human rights.  Moreover, the Bush administration's decision affects at least 118 foreign nationals who are condemned to death in the USA. Furthermore, a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion held that capital punishment cannot be applied to minors, and then cited in its rationale -- inter alia -- the existence of "international norms." [3]

Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh, formerly a DOS official during the Clinton era, described the USA's piecemeal withdrawal from international adjudication as "counterproductive."  Is he correct?

It's an ironic fact of history that the USA was the first nation to invoke the Vienna Convention's "optional protocol."  Washington filed a case in the ICJ, and won a judgment against Iran, after 52 American citizens were taken hostage in Tehran in 1979. [4]  This fact illustrates how terribly shortsighted the Bush administration's decision to withdraw from the Vienna protocol really was, because now the USA cannot use it to protect American citizens when they are taken hostage overseas.

In 2002, the unilateralist Bush administration invoked its regressive 16th-century version of national sovereignty as an excuse to withdraw the USA's signature from the Rome Treaty, which created the International Criminal Court ("ICC"), thus making the USA the only developed nation that is not a member of the ICC. 

On 3-10-05, UN Secretary General Annan reacted to SoS Rice's letter while he was speaking at Madrid's international counterterrorism conference.  First, he criticized the Anglo-American coalition's ongoing attempt to weaken international human-rights law.  He then pointedly admonished that: "We cannot compromise on core values. ... Human rights and the rule of law must always be respected."  Finally, he noted that international human-rights law already contains ample provisions for strong counter-terrorism measures, "even in the most exceptional of circumstances." [5] 

Rather than capitulate to the Anglo-American coalition's illegal counterterrorism operations (i.e., their "preemptive" War On Terror), Secretary General Annan concluded by advocating a comprehensive convention that focuses on the "five Ds":
(1) dissuading disaffected groups from terrorism;
(2) denying terrorists the means to carry out their attacks;
(3) deterring states from supporting terrorists;
(4) developing states' capacity to prevent terrorism; and
(5) defending human rights. [6]
To which one hopes he would add a sixth "D": dismantling the self-declared "right" of hegemonic states -- like Dubya the Deadly Diplomatic Disaster's -- to wage a preemptive "World War IV" BEFORE they can make it a reality. [7]

The Bottom Line: It Doesn't Take A Weatherman To See Which Way The Wind Blows. The non-American world already recognizes what our military-corporate-media complex continues to hide from the American people: the strategy that the Bush administration remains hell-bent on implementing is the incremental withdrawal of the USA from the rule of international -- not to mention constitutional -- law.  You can judge the evidence for yourself at endnote #8, below!


1. Adam Liptak's 3-10-05 CD/NYT article, "US Says It Has Withdrawn From World Judicial Body": http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0310-04.htm
2. Rupert Cornwall's 3-11-05 CD/Independent article, "Foreigners On Death Row No Longer Have Right To Make International Appeal": http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0311-04.htm
3. TJSL Professor Marjorie Cohn's 3-5-05 TO essay, "US Finally Outlaws Execution Of Children":  http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/030305A.shtml
4. Cornwall, ibid.
5. Jonathan Steele's 3-11-05 CD/GU article, "Annan Attacks Erosion Of Rights In War On Terror: US And Britain In UN Secretary General's Sights": http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0311-01.htm
6. Cornwall, ibid.
7. Tom Englehart's 3-10-05 CD/TD essay, "Which War Is This Anyway: Are We In World War IV?": http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0310-29.htm
8. In addition to endnotes 1 & 2 above, the following twelve articles provide convincing circumstantial proof, when taken as a whole, that the Bush administration's dangerous overarching strategy is to incrementally withdraw the USA from the rule of international law by diktat and fait accompli:
   (A) Los Angeles Times' 3-11-05 CD/LAT editorial, "Torture By Proxy": http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0311-32.htm
   (B) Jerry Fresia's 3-11-05 CP essay, "Targeting Guiliana: Former USAF Intel Officer Says The US Considered Her A Military Target": http://counterpunch.org/fresia03112005.html
   (C) Joel Wendland's 3-5-05 PA article, "Napalm, Chemical Weapons Used At Fallujah": http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/view/744/1/80
    (D) Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark's 3-1-05 IAC essay, "An International Appeal To Ban The Use Of Depleted Uranium Weapons": http://www.iacenter.org/depleted/appeal.htm
    (E) Scott Ritter's 1-10-05 SOAWNE/Newsweek essay, "Salvador Option: US To Send Death Squads To Iraq": http://www.soawne.org/SalvadorOption.html
    (F) Nicholas Davies' outstanding 12-31-04 OJ essay, "The Crime Of War: From Nüremberg To Fallujah": http://www.onlinejournal.com/Special_Reports

    (G) TJSL Professor Marjorie Cohn's 11-9-04 TO essay, "Aggressive War: Supreme International Crime": http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/110904A.shtml
    (H) Jelena Pejic's 10-29-04 CW essay, "Three Misconceptions About The Laws Of War": http://www.crimesofwar.org/onnews/news-miscon.html
    (I) Paul Rockwell's 2-24-04 OJ essay, "Depleted Uranium: The War Crime That Has No End": http://www.onlinejournal.com/Special_Reports

    (J) James Crawley's 8-5-03 GS/SDUT article, "Officials Confirm Dropping [Napalm] Firebombs On Iraqi Troops": http://www.globalsecurity.org/org/news/2003/030805-firebombs01.htm
    (K) DUSL Professor Michael Byers' 8-20-02 CW essay, "Iraq And The 'Bush Doctrine' Of Preemptive Self-Defense": http://www.crimesofwar.org/expert/bush-byers.html
    (L) HLS Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter's 9-16-01 CW/WP essay, "A Defining Moment In The Parsing Of War": http://www.crimesofwar.org/expert/attack-slaughter.html


©2005EAPIII Author: Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D., is the Executive Director of the American Center for International Law ("ACIL"). EvPeters8@aol.com



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