The husband and wife team of Condi and George are pulling the U. S. out of the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, a protocol we created and were the first country to use, which protects the rights of American citizens abroad, because we don’t want to treat accused capital offenders from other nations fairly.
In a two-paragraph letter dated March 7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that the United States “hereby withdraws” from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The United States proposed the protocol in 1963 and ratified it — along with the rest of the Vienna Convention — in 1969.
The protocol requires signatories to let the International Court of Justice (ICJ) make the final decision when their citizens say they have been illegally denied the right to see a home-country diplomat when jailed abroad.
The United States initially backed the measure as a means to protect its citizens abroad. It was also the first country to invoke the protocol before the ICJ, also known as the World Court, successfully suing Iran for the taking of 52 U.S. hostages in Tehran in 1979.
But in recent years, other countries, with the support of U.S. opponents of capital punishment, successfully complained before the World Court that their citizens were sentenced to death by U.S. states without receiving access to diplomats from their home countries.
The administration’s action comes after its Feb. 28 decision to grant 51 Mexicans on death row in Texas and elsewhere new state court hearings, as the ICJ had ordered.
But withdrawal from the protocol means that the United States will not have to bow to the ICJ again, legal analysts said.
Some said the decision would weaken both protections for U.S. citizens abroad and the idea of reciprocal obligation that the protocol embodied.
“It’s encouraging that the president wants to comply with the ICJ judgment” in the Mexicans’ case, said Frederic L. Kirgis, a professor of international law at Washington and Lee University. “But it’s discouraging that it’s now saying we’re taking our marbles and going home.”