Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Medellín & death in the heart of Fox' Texas

Am happy for opportunities to talk IntLaw with the media; seems part of a prof's job to try to help others make some sense of the intricate ways that law aims for fair and nonforcible settlement of disputes. Most Fox News Radio interviews I did this morning went just fine, but one reminded just how difficult the task of IntLaw explanation can be.
Listening patiently to the 7 a.m. drivetime prattle in San Antonio, Texas. Ready to talk about Medellín v. Texas, set for oral argument today in D.C.
As we've posted, the Supreme Court's considering whether President George W. Bush overstepped when he ordered state courts to enforce the International Court of Justice judgment in Mexico v. United States (Avena) (2004) by means of "review and reconsider[ation]" of the cases of Medellín and 50 other Mexican nationals condemned to death without being told of their right under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to call their consulate for help with their defense. Phrased another way, the question's whether Texas' highest criminal court was in the right when, citing judicial independence, it told Bush that he was wrong. A fascinating mix of questions of state, national, and international law.
The intro line to the Texas interview? "Sovereignty at stake."
1st words out of the radio host's mouth? The gory details of the crime for which Medellín's been convicted, gang rape and murder of 2 young women when he was 18. Establishing spin for the rest of the interview, the account reminded of the frame in which even the most ordinary criminal cases often are presented to the public.
Gist of the questions? Where do these international courts come off thinking they can tell us (read U.S.) what to do? The answer, that the ICJ's a court on which the United States insisted in 1945, and that what's at stake is whether the United States can keep its promises, did not seem entirely welcomed.
Final question added a note of immigration to the already heady law & order/sovereignty stew. It went something like this: Bush's made a habit throughout his presidency of refusing to go along with international law. Isn't his backing off here about nothing but politics with Mexico?Interview over, here's a question: What can IntLaw types do to stake a claim to America's heartland?


Fiona de Londras said...

It doesn't strike me that there's much anyone can do in these situations apart from trying to make people realise that compliance with international law in their own (and their nation's) self-interest; that makes for a more peaceful, humanist world that reflects their values. The problem arises, of course, when people hold values that the international community as a whole considers repugnant, such as the death penalty. Sometimes people can't be convinced - that's why we need courts to adjudicate on these matters.

Diane Marie Amann said...

Early & incisive analysis of today's argument is at SCOTUSblog: