The State Department’s top legal adviser told international lawyers on June 6 that President Bush is so committed to the primacy of international law that he has taken his home state of Texas to court on behalf of a group of Mexican killers. The Mexicans had been sentenced to death for murdering U.S. citizens, including young children.
John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, cited the case, Mexico v. United States of America, in trying to convince the attorneys that the administration is doing what it can to enforce international law in U.S. courts.
In the case, Bush has come down on the same side as the U.N.’s International Court of Justice (ICJ), which ruled 14-1 on behalf of Mexico against the U.S. The ICJ was headed at the time by a judge from communist China, who also ruled against the U.S.
Bellinger’s audience was gathered at The Hague, a city in the Netherlands which is home to over 100 international organizations, including the U.N.’s International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
Sworn in as the Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State on April 8, 2005, Bellinger is described by the State Department as “the principal adviser on all domestic and international law matters to the Department of State, the Foreign Service, and the diplomatic and consular posts abroad.”
The Bellinger speech, designed to convince the pro-U.N. globalists in attendance that Bush is really on their side, should have been big news. Not only did he praise Bush for coming down on the side of foreign killers of Americans, in a major court case with international implications, but he demonstrated how far the administration is prepared to go to impress the “international community.”
In a major disclosure, Bellinger said that Bush is currently seeking immediate Senate ratification of 35 different “treaty packages.” He said these include the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a measure rejected by President Reagan and his U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Bellinger didn’t name any of the other “treaty packages” that the administration wants to push through. But a number of radical treaties are known to be pending before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Joseph Biden.
Once again, it appears that Bush wants to ignore the concerns of conservatives in order to work with liberal Democrats and advance a controversial legislative agenda.
“To put it simply,” Bellinger said, “our critics sometimes paint the United States as a country willing to duck or shrug off international obligations when they prove constraining or inconvenient. That picture is wrong. The United States does believe that international law matters. We help develop it, rely on it, abide by it, and–contrary to some impressions–it has an important role in our nation’s Constitution and domestic law.”
Bellinger’s extraordinary speech, coming at a time when Bush is under fire for failing to protect America from a Mexican invasion of illegal aliens, demonstrates how the President has been working on behalf of Mexican interests–in this case, convicted Mexican killers claiming their “rights” were violated under a treaty–against the interests of his own nation. When the implications of the Mexico v. United States case are widely known, it can only further harm the administration’s chances for an amnesty-for-illegal-aliens bill.
Conservatives have shown, through derailing the bill, that they are not content to play dumb or go to sleep when the issue involves American sovereignty.
Rights for Killers
Many Americans are not aware that the Mexico v. United States case, also known as the Avena decision, was decided against the U.S. by the U.N.’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) and that the Bush Justice Department sided with the ICJ. What’s more, the Bush Justice Department took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to force U.S. states to legally recognize the “rights” of Mexicans who kill Americans on U.S. soil. A decision from the Supreme Court is pending.
The case was taken to the ICJ by the government of Mexico on behalf of 51 of its citizens who had carried out these murders in the U.S. The argument advanced by Mexico on behalf of the killers was that they were not afforded a timely opportunity to meet with Mexican representatives in the U.S. known as consular officers. This was said to be required under the Vienna Convention.
Current figures show 124 foreign nationals on death row in the U.S. Fifty-five of those are from Mexico. Most of them are on death row in California or Texas.
Bellinger explained that “The cases covered by the ICJ judgment all involved heinous murders, including of young children. Some proceedings had gone on for many years, with the victims’ families patiently waiting while our state and then federal courts reviewed the outcome to ensure that it fully complied with our laws. Yet the ICJ judgment nonetheless required us to review these cases again to consider the unlikely possibility that the outcome would have been different if the defendant had been asked whether he wanted his consular officer notified of his arrest.”
The ICJ “ordered the United States to review the cases of 51 Mexican nationals convicted of capital crimes,” Bellinger told the audience. Citing U.S. sovereignty and the concerns of the victims’ families, the Bush Administration could have ignored the ICJ ruling. But Bush, “acting on the advice of the Secretary of State,” decided to “require each State involved to give the 51 convicts a new hearing,” he said. Hence, Bush sided with convicted killers from Mexico against the American victims and their families.
How did the President do this? On February 28, 2005, Bush simply made a “determination” and assumed the power to tell the states what to do.
He declared, “I have determined, pursuant to the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States, that the United States will discharge its international obligations under the decision of the International Court of Justice in the Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America), 2004 I.C.J. 128 (Mar. 31), by having state courts give effect to the decision in accordance with general principles of comity in cases filed by the 51 Mexican nationals addressed in that decision.”
The Bush Justice Department argued that the president has the power to do whatever he wants to do. “In particular circumstances, the President may decide that the United States will not comply with an ICJ decision and direct a United States veto of any proposed Security Council enforcement measure,” it said. “Here, however, the President has determined that the foreign policy interests of the United States justify compliance with the ICJ’s decision.”
But Bush’s home state of Texas decided that Bush did not have that power.
Texas Says No
Bellinger acknowledged that “The first defendant to try to take advantage of the President’s decision was in the state of Texas, which objected to the President’s decision. In response, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the President had no power to intervene in its affairs, even to obtain compliance with an order of the ICJ. This Administration has gone to the Supreme Court of the United States to reverse this decision. We expect a ruling from that Court this time next year.”
So here we have a case of the Bush Administration going to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to enforce compliance with an international court! And the case involves litigating against the President’s home state of Texas!
There’s an old saying, “Don’t mess with Texas.” Well, Bush did.
Bush Promotes New Treaties
Trying to impress his international audience, Bellinger declared that “international law binds us in our domestic system” and that the Bush Administration entered into 429 international agreements and treaties last year alone.
Bellinger bragged that “…I have a staff of 171 lawyers, who work every day to furnish advice on legal matters, domestic and international, and to promote the development of international law as a fundamental element of our foreign policy.”
According to Bellinger, “Our Constitution does not prescribe isolationism. To the contrary, it promotes our active participation in the development and enforcement of international law.”
This will be news to patriotic Americans.
Even in cases where the administration seems opposed to some new international institution, Bellinger made it clear that the opposition is only half-hearted.
For example, while Bush never sought ratification of the ICC, Bellinger said that “…over the past couple of years we have worked hard to demonstrate that we share the main goals and values of the Court.” He explained, “We did not oppose the Security Council’s referral of the Darfur situation to the ICC, and have expressed our willingness to consider assisting the ICC Prosecutor’s Darfur work should we receive an appropriate request. We supported the use of ICC facilities for the trial of Charles Taylor, which began this week here in The Hague. These steps reflect our desire to find practical ways to work with ICC supporters to advance our shared goals of promoting international criminal justice…”
Bellinger did not explain what would happen when the ICC decided to lodge charges against U.S. soldiers or officials over “war crimes” in Iraq or elsewhere.
New Global Warming Treaty
Anticipating Bush’s embrace at the G-8 meeting in Germany of a new and much-tougher global warming treaty, Bellinger said that the U.S. was pursuing “a host of climate-related measures, both domestically and internationally,” including “a new post-2012 framework on climate change.” Al Gore would have been proud.
In the only remarks that could please conservatives, Bellinger said that the Bush Administration would NOT pursue ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a radical pro-abortion feminist measure. He said that “…we have not been persuaded that the binding international obligations contained in that treaty would add anything to the measures we take domestically.”
Considering that Bush is pushing UNCLOS–and dozens of other treaties–and that he sided with Mexico against his own country and his own state in the Avena case, the failure to push ratification of CEDAW may not be hailed as much of a victory by conservatives. Indeed, Bellinger seemed to be arguing that CEDAW was not necessary because U.S. domestic law was already as radical as the U.N. treaty and that the administration was perfectly happy with that state of affairs.
Bellinger closed his speech by saying, “The principles that The Hague symbolizes are ours too, and our common future rests on them.”