World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


USA: another "double standard" on consular rights?

USA: another "double standard" on consular rights?

Just over a week ago, President George W. Bush signed a memorandum to the US Attorney General affirming that the United States would comply with the binding decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) protecting the consular rights of foreign nationals under sentence of death. Consistent with the ICJ judgment of 31 March 2004 in the Avena case, the President announced that state courts would be required to review and reconsider the effect of violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) in 51 cases of Mexican nationals who were subsequently sentenced to death.

In a brief submitted to the US Supreme Court regarding the judicial enforcement of the ICJ decision, the US Solicitor General declared that "Compliance serves to protect the interests of United States citizens abroad, promotes the effective conduct of foreign relations, and underscores the United States’ commitment in the international community to the rule of law." The Solicitor General also promised that "a new trial or a new sentencing would be ordered" wherever judicial review established that the treaty violation had been prejudicial.

Despite that stated commitment to full treaty compliance, the United States has now announced its withdrawal from the VCCR Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes, the international legal instrument which empowers the ICJ to interpret and apply the terms of the treaty.

Amnesty International welcomes the decision by President Bush to comply with the ICJ judgment and calls on the US courts to provide a full, fair and meaningful review in all cases where foreign nationals were deprived of their consular rights and sentenced to death. At the same time, however, the organization is deeply concerned by the USA’s decision to withdraw from the VCCR Optional Protocol. This backward step cannot be reconciled with the United States' own declaration that compliance with the ICJ serves to protect American interests abroad and promotes the global rule of law.

Unquestionably, the timely access to consular assistance safeguarded under the Vienna Convention serves to protect the human rights of foreign detainees worldwide. As the US Government itself recognized following the execution of Paraguayan national Ángel Breard in Virginia in 1998, "We fully appreciate that the United States must see to it that foreign nationals in the United States receive the same treatment that we expect for our citizens overseas. We cannot have a double standard." Any step taken by the United States to undermine the legal authority of the VCCR is a step towards danger for all detained foreigners everywhere, including US citizens abroad.

For more on the ICJ Avena judgment, see

View all AI documents on USA:

Current and background information on the death penalty:

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>


Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news