Despite years of ignoring international law, the issue has finally propelled the federal government to intervene in a state execution process.
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What a turn of events. In 21 documented executions (Death Penalty Information Center) in which the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations was violated, the federal government and the courts ignored international law.
One of the provisions of the Vienna Convention provides that if the police arrest a citizen of another country, they are required to inform him or her of the right to contact the consulate of their country.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice decided in favor of Mexico. The international court ordered the review of the 50 Mexican nationals currently on death row or awaiting trial. The Bush Administration decided to abide by the international tribunal and the State of Texas suddenly found itself in court arguing states' rights.
Some have suggested the the Bush Administration is seeking to curry favor with the Mexican government and Hispanic voters. It does seem rather odd that an administration that has previously ignored international law and shunned relations with other countries would suddenly reverse direction.
The other obvious irony is that the president now finds himself supporting a death-row inmate from the State of Texas, where as governor, he presided over numerous executions including cases involving violations of international law.
Whatever the motivation of the Bush Administration, the outcome of this case will be interesting as it will involve conservatives fighting with conservatives and will have numerous implications for both foreign policy and states' rights.