Recently in International Category

Here in the United States, we get to vote separately for a national legislature, which deals with foreign and military affairs, interstate commerce and other matters which need to be decided on a national level, and for a state legislature which is supposed to have control over those matters that can be handled more locally.  The line isn't as crisp as it used to be, or, in my opinion, as it should be, but it's there, and those separate elections serve to keep government more responsive to the will of the people.  Canada and Australia also have federated governments.

Englishmen, though, only get one legislative vote -- for their representative in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.  That may be about to change, Nicholas Winning and Jenny Gross report in the WSJ.
Sky News is projecting that Scottish voters have chosen to remain in the United Kingdom.

One More Reason to Disdain "International Law"

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When we trust justice to a tribunal whose success depends on the voluntary cooperation of thugs, justice is the one thing we won't get.

Canada's Fairness for Victims Act

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Our northern neighbor's House of Commons commendably passed the Fairness for Victims Act, which among other things allows the parole board to set reconsideration intervals up to five years rather than the current two.  When a rapist or murderer is eligible for parole and the victim or victim's family is opposed, they must go to the hearing and relive the horror.  They ought not have to do that more often than necessary.

In an amazing screw-up, though, the wrong version of the bill was sent to the Senate and referred to committee there, Sean Fine reports in the Globe and Mail.
The Wall Street Journal has this article about the convictions in the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia of Khmer Rouge intellectual and political leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Nuon Chea, 88 years old, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue and former deputy to late leader Pol Pot, and 83-year-old Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, were sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday after being found guilty of crimes against humanity--directing murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts related to the mass eviction of city-dwellers and executions of enemy soldiers.

The verdict, coming nearly three years after the trial began, marked the first convictions secured against top-tier regime officials by the United Nations-backed tribunal, long plagued by funding shortfalls and perceived political interference.
The article hails the convictions as justice for the victims of Khmer Rouge murder and pillage (crimes against humanity as the tribunal calls it) at long last, but convictions are not justice. A criminal conviction is merely a prerequisite to justice. It is the sentence that follows a conviction that determines if justice has been served.
Four days ago, Russian-backed separatists using a Russian-supplied surface to air missile shot down a commercial passenger jet, killing the 298 people on board, all civilians. Since then, those same Russian-backed separatists have taken control of the crash scene, seized the "black box" (and reportedly sent it to Moscow), stuffed the bodies in a bunch of bags like they were picking up trash, stonewalled the mourning relatives, and generally behaved as you would expect from people who murder about 300 of their fellow creatures because, ya know, these rocket launchers are really cool and fun to set off.

Baghdad Harry

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Alexander Bolton of the Hill covers  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement to reporters yesterday assuring the nation that America's southern border is secure.  He made this remarkable statement as news video streams across the airwaves showing tens of thousands of foreigners flooding across the border into Texas, Arizona and New Mexico overwhelming the already inadequate border patrol and forcing agents to become caregivers to thousands of Central American children rather than a security force looking for drug smugglers and terrorists.   In the face of what is clearly a complete breakdown of U.S. border security Senator Reid is trying to BS the entire country.  Some may remember Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Saddam Hussein's Minister of Information better known as Baghdad Bob, who in April 2003 stood in front of cameras on a Baghdad street and announced that Saddam's army had repelled coalition forces, while U.S. tanks were passing behind him. 
Today's opinion in Bond v. United States quotes Justice Felix Frankfurter's classic article, Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes, 47 Colum. L. Rev. 527 (1947).  I have modified that title a bit for this post.

In Bond, the Court "ducked" the constitutional question of whether Congress had the authority to make a federal case out of an ordinary assault perpetrated by chemical means, which would normally be a purely state case, in order to implement the international Convention on Chemical Weapons.  The Court did so by finding that the statute doesn't actually reach Ms. Bond's conduct at all, in the process plowing some difficult ground in the field of statutory interpretation.

I had previously posted on this case in January 2013, when the Court took the case up, and last October, when the Court heard oral argument.  As previously noted, Carol Bond's "husband and best friend had an affair, resulting in the friend's pregnancy.  Bond was certainly justified in being angry and taking action, but poison was over the top.  That is a crime for which she should have been prosecuted and punished -- by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" not the federal government.  Today the Supreme Court agreed unanimously, but disagreements as to why explain why this case took so long.

"Hard cases make bad law," it is often said.  This case exemplifies how bad laws make hard cases.  We begin with treaty negotiators botching the drafting process, with Congress meekly following suit.  The result is a mess. 
Alison Hsiao reports for the Taipei Times:

While the existing Criminal Code stipulates that a person who "kidnaps another to extort ransom shall be sentenced to death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for not less than seven years" and that "if aggravated injury results from the offense, the offender shall be sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for not less than 10 years," the amendments made yesterday scrapped the capital punishment from these two clauses.

The bill was proposed by the Executive Yuan, who referred in its proposal to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Taiwan in 2009 and says that in countries that have not abolished the death penalty, "the sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."

In the United States, no one has been executed for a crime not resulting in the death of the victim in the post-1976 era.  Most of the statutes enacted to comply with Furman v. Georgia limited the death penalty to murder, and the Supreme Court struck down most of the others in Coker v. Georgia (1977) and Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008).
This AP story speaks for itself:

Two teenage sisters in rural India were raped and killed by attackers who hung their bodies from a mango tree, which became the scene of a silent protest by villagers angry about alleged police inaction in the case. Two of the four men arrested so far are police officers.

Villagers found the girls' bodies hanging from the tree early Wednesday, hours after they disappeared from fields near their home in Katra village in Uttar Pradesh state, police Superintendent Atul Saxena said. The girls, who were 14 and 15, had gone into the fields because there was no toilet in their home....India tightened its anti-rape laws last year, making gang rape punishable by the death penalty, even when the victim survives.


But the most memorable part of the story is at the end, from a fellow I gather is running for president of the Indian version of the NACDL:


Last month, the head of Uttar Pradesh state's governing party, the regionally prominent Samajwadi Party, told an election rally that the party was opposed to the law calling for gang rapists to be executed.  "Boys will be boys," Mulayam Singh Yadav said. "They make mistakes."




Joshua Keating has this post with the above title at Slate. "With India, Japan, and Indonesia rejoining the U.S., the world's largest democracies are death penalty countries and the practice has heavy popular support in all of them."

Should We Follow International Law?

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No.  We should follow the Constitution.  But we can learn from international law, absolutely. We can learn something this very day, as it happens, from the world's largest democracy. Too bad the Supreme Court didn't get it a few years back.

Perhaps evolving standards of respect for women, not to mention respect for the most minimal human decency, will bring about a change of heart.

P.S.  When abolitionists tell us that we should adhere to the opinions of the "international community," what they actually mean is that we should adhere to the opinions of white people in Europe.  The death penalty predominates among "people of color" (as the phrase goes) in the Orient, the Subcontinent, the Middle East, the Caribbean, most of Africa and most of North America. 

Another Clueless Baldwin Rant

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Before you blast someone, especially in public, it's a good idea to make sure you have your facts straight and are aiming at the right target.  The notorious Alec Baldwin is apparently unaware of this.  Nardine Saad reports in the L.A. Times that Baldwin tweeted this on Monday:

"Flying from Nassau, Bahamas 2 NY. TSA 'random selects' my 5 month old daughter 4 a pat down. I am not kidding. #travelinginUSisadisgrace."
The TSA is, of course, a part of the United States Department of Homeland Security.  The TSA does not do the airport screenings in the Bahamas for the obvious (to persons of sense) reason that the Bahamas are not part of the United States.  The esteemed (by many, though I can't fathom why) Mr. Baldwin was apparently unaware that he was in a foreign country being screened by an agency of a foreign government.  So his hashtag says traveling in the United States is a disgrace because of an incident that occurred outside the United States completely out of the control of the U.S. government.

Upon this being pointed out, his "correction" says, "I guess what I'm saying is: Traveling in the US is a pain in the ... ass."  Ms. Saad notes, "Still not the U.S., though, Alec."
Opponents of the death penalty never tire of telling us how other countries have rejected it.  That rejection, though, is usually by a fiat from above, not by the people.  Nowhere is the disconnect between the government position and popular opinion greater than south of our border.  David Agren has this story in USA Today.

Texas' execution of Edgar Tamayo for the murder of a U.S. police officer was heavily criticized by Mexican officials, who say their country rightly banned capital punishment years ago.

But if many people in Mexico had their way, the death penalty would be an option to deal with murderers such as Tamayo, surveys and criminal experts say.

Surveys by polling firms and media outlets in Mexico over the past seven years show that support for the death penalty has increased to a point where a majority would like to see it reinstated. Recent polls found 70%-80% would like to see the death penalty imposed for crimes such as murder and kidnapping, a rate above the majority support for the death penalty in the USA.


Tamayo Execution Proceeds

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Edgar Tamayo was executed in Texas last night for killing Police Officer Guy Gaddis in 1994.  AP story here.  Prior post here.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied petitions for certiorari and stays of execution in two orders, here and here.  No dissent is noted for the first.  Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor would have granted the stay in the second.  That is the last-minute Atkins claim of supposed mental retardation.  The Fifth Circuit held, correctly IMHO, that the District Court did not need to put up with this strategy of holding a claim until election eve.

Finally, we agree with the district court that Tamayo's claim was not brought within a reasonable time." See, e.g., In re Osborne, 379 F.3d 277, 283 (5th Cir. 2004). The [Supreme] Court's opinion in McQuiggin was issued on May 28, 2013, nearly 8 months ago. Tamayo waited until January 20, 2014, two days before his scheduled execution, to file this motion. The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that this was not a "reasonable time" and in denying the motion. [Footnotes omitted.]

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