Monday, August 4, 2008

Legislation to Implement Consular Notification Rights

On July 14, 2008, two Congressmen from California, Representatives Berman and Lofgren, introduced H.R. 6481, which would create a civil action to provide judicial remedies to carry out certain treaty obligations of the United States under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR)  and the Optional Protocol to the VCCR.  This legislation was necessitated by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Medellin v. Texas in March of this year.  As readers of this blog are aware, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Medellin that the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) directing review and reconsideration of Mr. Medellin's case (as well as that of other defendants who were not provided with consular notification), is not automatically binding on courts in the U.S. and that the President does not have the power to unilaterally order state courts to implement the ICJ's judgment.  The Supreme Court stated that Congress should be involved in the implementation of the ICJ's judgment.  To date, Congress has not passed any legislation to implement that judgment.  H.R. 6481 would remedy that situation by providing "appropriate relief" to any person whose rights under VCCR Article 36 are infinged.  As a result of Congressional inaction to date, Texas is scheduled to execute Mr. Medellin on August 5, 2008.  H.R. 6481 is important not only to demonstrate respect for U.S. treaty obligations, but also to protect Americans traveling abroad who wish to avail themselves of access to U.S. consulates in foreign countries.   If you are interested in supporting H.R. 6481, you may write to your Congressional representatives directly, or go to the website of the Center for Constitutional Rights and sign the petition there - http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/383/t/6374/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=25299.

(cgb)

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