The Bush administration is dropping out of an international agreement that opponents of the death penalty have used to fight the sentences of foreigners on death row in the U.S., the Washington Post reports. In a two-paragraph letter dated March 7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that the U.S. “hereby withdraws” from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The U.S. proposed the protocol in 1963 and ratified it in 1969. The protocol requires signatories to let the International Court of Justice 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 Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments March 28 in the case of a Mexican death row inmate in Texas who is asking the justices to enforce an ICJ decision in favor of Mexico last year. That case has attracted wide attention in Mexico and caused a diplomatic rift between the Bush administration and the government of Mexican President Vicente Fox. “It’s encouraging that the president wants to comply with the ICJ judgment” in the Mexicans’ case, said law Prof. Frederic Kirgis of Washington and Lee University. “But it’s discouraging that it’s now saying we’re taking our marbles and going home.”