“What’s the matter with Texas?” This morning’s Houston Chronicle headlines the news that the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has refused to acknowledge an order from the World Court to stay the planned August 5th execution of a Mexican citizen convicted of murder. “The world court has no standing in Texas and Texas is not bound by a ruling or edict from a foreign court,” thundered the governor’s spokesman.
There is little doubt that Jose Ernesto Medellin, a 31-year old from Mexico, was involved in a gruesome crime. But, as a foreign national, he was entitled to have his country’s consulate informed of his arrest under the laws of the Geneva Convention to which the U.S. is a signatory. 51 Mexican citizens held in Texas jails are affected by the World Court’s ruling.
In 2004, the World Court ordered a review of these cases. The following year, President Bush ordered state courts to abide by that ruling but he was overruled the following month by the U.S. Supreme Court which argued that only Congress had the authority to insist on such compliance. Congress needs to act fast.
Texas pride is a strange thing. National Guard troops take their oaths on the grounds of the Alamo where earlier Texans fought off foreign invaders. Everything in Texas has to be big, so, for example, their state capitol is the largest in the nation, even if it is also one of the ugliest. Signs everywhere beckon you to the “world’s best BBQ,” a title to which many restaurants lay claim but none fulfill. Memphis BBQ is a thousand times better.
But, whether they like or not (and whether the rest of us like it or not) Texans are part of the human race and citizens of the United States. Failure to grant the rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention in this case endangers American citizens who might be arrested abroad. Foreign courts could cite Texas’s intransigence to sustain their own disregard for the rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention. If rights are not reciprocal, they are recognized mostly in the breach.
“The world court don’t mean diddly,” said the father of one of the victims in the crime for which Medellin was convicted. The father of the other victim was even clearer in his motivations: “I believe we’ve been through all the red tape we can go through. It’s time to rock and roll.” Gov. Perry needs to exercise some political courage. (Cardinal DiNardo of Houston and other Catholic leaders in the state should loudly call for him to do so.) He must stand up to this disregard for the law of nations. Instead he is bowing before it. But, Texans won’t be the only ones to remember this Alamo. Somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda’s leaders are celebrating this opposition to Western civilization and one of it’s finest achievements, the Geneva Conventions.
Michael Sean Winters