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Texas Executes Mexican National

La Opinión, Editorial, Staff Posted: Aug 05, 2008

Editor's Note: An editorial in the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión calls into question the legality of today's execution of Mexican national José Medellín in Texas.

The execution in Texas of Mexican national José Medellín scheduled for today violates international treaties.

At issue here is not whether Medellín is guilty of a horrific murder, or even whether Texas has the right to apply capital punishment. We have opposed the death penalty for many different reasons, but that’s the law in Texas.

The core issue is the violation of a treaty that has been in effect for decades, under which, when a foreigner is arrested, the authorities are obligated to notify the consul of that person’s country. The idea behind this process is to prevent local authorities from committing procedural abuses against a detainee.

Texas failed to comply in Medellín’s case and then refused to abide by an International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision —accepted by the Bush Administration— to review the case. Later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Texas, stating that there was no norm obligating the states to abide by an ICJ decision.

The Supreme Court decision was surprising, because, first of all, ratification of any and all international treaties by the Senate guarantees that they will be upheld by the states. Secondly, this decision calls into question the validity of other agreements whose implementation would require a level of specificity as demanded in this case.

Federalism is important, but international treaties ratified cannot be ignored. Other states of the Union have respected the ICJ’s decision. Texas should do likewise and cease acting as if it were independent. Its refusal to review the case is an aberration and affects the credibility of the United States as a country.

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