The US for the first time ever has filed a Human Rights Report as part of the Universal Periodic Review with the United Nations Human Rights Council. Democrat President Barack Obama is the first commander-in-chief to seek and obtain a seat on that council. A brief mention of the Avena decision from the International Court of Justice is referenced; this should raise justice alerts throughout the country.
In the section ‘Fairness and equality in law enforcement,’ the US Report on Human Rights said: “The Administration is also committed to ensuring that the United States complies with its international obligations to provide consular notification and access for foreign nationals in U.S. custody, including the obligations arising from the Avena decision of the International Court of Justice.” That single sentence pledging compliance effectively elevates treaty law above the supreme powers of the US and the Supreme Court. It also flies in the face of the US Constitution.
The Avena decision drew little attention from media. Dating to 2004 the case involved demanding the US reopen cases of 51 Mexican nationals sentenced to death row in various American states. William J. Watkins, Jr., in an essay at The American Spectator, explained Avena’s premise: “American authorities violated the Vienna Convention by failing to timely inform the Mexican detainees of their right to speak with Mexican officials and by failing to inform the appropriate consular post of the detentions. The ICJ found in Mexico's favor and ordered the United States to review and reconsider the convictions.” Mexico sued the US in an effort to bind us to international law via a treaty.
Mexico also sued the US over the case of Medillin vs. Texas in 2008. Jose Emesto Medellin belonged to the gang that brutally raped and murdered two teenage girls who were walking home one evening in Houston.
Ted Cruz, writing about the case in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, said, “José Emesto Medellin, the second-in-command of the gang, waived his Miranda rights and wrote a four-page hand-written confession. Displaying no remorse whatsoever, he admitted gang-raping both girls, and he described how they pleaded for their lives before he stomped on one girl's neck and strangled them both with a shoelace and a belt. Medellín committed an unspeakable crime, confessed to that crime, and, after being vigorously represented by two state-funded lawyers, was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers.”
Medellin had lived in the US, Cruz wrote, “for most of his life…had attended American schools, and read and wrote English…” But Medellin had been born in Mexico—technically, like any other illegal alien, he was still a Mexican citizen.
The US Supreme Court didn’t overturn Medellin’s conviction. He was executed by the state of Texas in August, 2008. What’s important is that Medellin cited Avena as justification for his challenge.
The US Report on Human Rights, however, with a statement pledging compliance to Avena, upends that Supreme Court decision and effectively places International Law above US laws and sovereignty. That single statement in the UN report backdoors international law and not a single media outlet noticed. Nor did Congress.
I read the whole report. There are many troubling statements within it, including yielding to Mexico again on the new Arizona immigration law.
Compliance with Avena is the most troubling statement in the whole report.
This is not a new issue. After President Harry Truman seized the steel mills on the pretext of necessity because of the Korean War, Watkins said “three Supreme Court justices approved this action by citing to the UN Charter and the NATO treaty.” Republican senator John Bricker proposed an amendment that would have restricted treaty power. The amendment did not pass.
Watkins believes the Bricker amendment should be reintroduced.
Obama has voiced support for elevating international law, and so have some of his cabinet members.
Cruz wrote, “Medellin was a significant victory for U.S. sovereignty, for separation of powers, and for federalism. Yet these fights will keep on coming. The creep of international law, and the asserted authority of international tribunals, will pose one of the greatest challenges of coming decades. And there will remain a continued need to defend our sovereignty, and our structural limitations on government, so as to preserve our liberty.”
That need is critical because our president and his state department have pledged, via the Avena decision of the ICJ, to elevate international law above the sovereign laws of the United States. And that bit of policy was pushed through the back door by way of a report on human rights.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Aug. 30, 2010)