Apparently Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas can’t decide if he should run for President of the United States of America or President of the Lone Star Republic. While he ponders this, he needs to remember that Texas is still one of the 50 states and should adhere to International Treaties signed by the U.S.
The United States is one of the 170 countries participating in the Vienna Convention. The gist of the treaty is simple: everyone promises to allow foreign nationals accused of a crime to be in contact and get help from their home government and they need to be informed of this right.
Because of language and cultural issues it can help a visitor get a fair trial. It also insures that an American citizen traveling abroad will have the best chance of being treated fairly.
Texas just executed a Mexican national without complying with the treaty. Governor Perry was contacted by the U.S. Justice Department, the State Department and the President as well as the Mexican government asking him to comply or at least delay the execution until things could be sorted out. Also weighing in were several former Bush Administration officials in support of the stay of execution. Perry said he’d think about it. On Thursday July 7, less than a week later, Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. was put to death.
A couple years ago, 3 American hikers were arrested for allegedly crossing a border into Iran. They may not have done it or at least not knowingly. They were arrested and charged, accused of being spies. They asked the Iranians to inform the U.S. government. The government of Iran is a participant in the Vienna Convention and they complied. The U.S. State Department through a Swiss representative was allowed to visit them and has been doing what he can to help them and keeps their families informed.
Garcia’s guilt or innocence was not the issue. He was by all accounts a monstrous person who committed a heinous crime doing immeasurable harm. However, the Governor’s decision to allow the execution to proceed as planned, allows Garcia to reach from the grave and hurt additional people for the foreseeable future.
As an American citizen who spends a lot of time abroad, it has always been a comfort to know that if I was ever accused of a crime, my government would have my back. By not issuing a stay of execution, Governor Perry single-handedly creates an excuse and with it the real possibility that some country will deny me or other American citizens this right.
If Governor Perry actually manages to secede from the United States, he can choose to sign the Vienna Convention… or not. In the meantime, the fact that the courts (Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision, you can guess which 5) said he’s not compelled to comply with the treaty has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it was clearly the right thing to do.