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NEW VOICES: Former State Department Official Urges President to Implement Ruling of World Court

John Bellinger, who served as legal adviser to the State Department from 2005 to 2009, has called on President Obama to assist in the review of the death penalty cases of foreign nationals who were denied rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.  The U.S. has ratified the Vienna Convention and the Protocol that provides for resolution of disputes in the International Court of Justice in the Hague (ICJ).  Mexico brought a suit to this court on behalf of its citizens on death row in various states because the U.S. had not provided the defendants with access to their consulates at the time of their arrest.  The ICJ held that the cases of the Mexican nationals should be reviewed before any executions went forward.  President George W. Bush ordered state courts  to review the cases, but this order was ultimately blocked in the U.S. Supreme Court.  Mr. Bellinger said that President Obama could comply with our obligations under the treaty through legislation: "The Obama administration's best option would be to seek narrowly tailored legislation that would authorize the president to order review of these cases and override, if necessary, any state criminal laws limiting further appeals, in order to comply with the United Nations Charter," he wrote recently in the N.Y. Times.


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Ecuador Seeks Return of Florida Death Row Inmate

Ecuador is demanding the return of one of their citizens from Florida’s death row because they maintain he was taken from Ecuador illegally. The inmate, Nelson Serrano Saenz, is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Ecuador. Ecuador says he should have never been taken from their country by Florida officials, calling the arrest a “kidnapping” and accusing the U.S. government of physical maltreatment of Serrano as well.  Ecuador does not have the death penalty and will not extradite fugitives who face the punishment in other countries. ''The issue is not his guilt or innocence,'' said Deputy Ecuadorean Interior Minister Franco Sanchez. ''This is called a kidnapping, not an arrest.''  U.S. authorities maintain that they did nothing improper and that Serrano’s dual citizenship status allowed them to bring him back. The Organization of American States, to which both countries belong, has since recommended the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, after first finding that Ecuador had illegally detained and deported Serrano.  


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