AMERICAN DEATH PENALTY CASES AND THE WORLD COURT
This brief addresses the issues posed under American and international law by cases in which foreign nationals who are arrested, prosecuted and sentenced for capital crimes in the United States have not been informed of their rights to contact and seek assistance from their consulates there under Article 36(1) of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (Vienna Convention). The Vienna Convention has been signed by 160 nations and was ratified by the United States in 1969. Article 36(1) provides that if defendants who are foreign nationals are arrested or detained, the "competent authorities" of the arresting state must notify the nearest consulate of that defendant and inform that person of his or her right to contact such a consulate.
Among developed nations, only Japan and the United States retain the death penalty for certain crimes. According to Schabas, 102 of the nations of the world have abolished the death penalty, while 90 nations retain it (The 445; and International 812). Givelber says that in Europe there is a broad consensus that "capital punishment offends basic norms of human rights" (167). Although it has placed constitutional limits on the imposition of the death penalty, the American Supreme Court has generally left intact death penalty laws. Some 38 states have retained or instituted the death penalty since the early 1970s. According to Demleitner, 540 persons were executed between 1991 and 2000 under such laws and 3200 persons remained on death row (136).
Some foreign courts, including the Canadian and South African Supreme Courts, have held capital punishment to be illegal under international law. The European Court of Human Rights in its June 1989 decision in Soering v. United Kingdom refused to extradite to the United States an American accused of murder. According to Demleitner, "a number of European countries have announced that they will not...