Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mexico appeals to World Court to stay U.S. executions

And how much did it cost us to feed these people for all those years. We need to implement our express lane again in Texas.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Mexico made an emergency appeal to the U.N.'s highest court today to block the execution of its citizens on death row in the U.S.

Mexico's chief advocate Juan Manuel Gomez-Robledo said the U.S. was "in breach of its international obligations" by disregarding a 2004 judgment by the U.N.'s International Court of Justice, which ruled that Mexicans had been denied the right to help from their consulate after being arrested.

Gomez-Robledo said that without urgent action now, five Mexican citizens "will be executed before the conclusion of these proceedings."

The court, informally known as the World Court, had ruled that the Mexicans were entitled to a review of their trials and sentences to determine whether the violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention affected their cases.

The decisions of the court, the U.N.'s judicial arm for resolving disputes among nations, are binding and final, but it has no enforcement powers.

President Bush accepted the 2004 judgment and asked state courts to review the cases, but Texas refused.

The issue went to the Supreme Court, which ruled last March in a 6-3 vote that Bush lacked the authority to compel state courts to comply with the judgment from The Hague. The Vienna Convention cannot be binding on the states unless Congress enacts legislation enforcing it as federal law, the Supreme Court ruled.

Mexico argues that international law applies not only to the U.S. but also to individual states.

"The United States cannot invoke municipal law as justification for failure to perform its international legal obligations," it said in its application to the court two weeks ago.

Mexico asked the World Court for an "interpretation" of its earlier ruling to clarify what it meant when it asked the U.S. to "review and reconsider" the cases of the condemned prisoners. In the meantime, it asked the court to order the U.S. to halt the execution timetable.

U.S. representatives were due to respond later today before the 13-member tribunal.

Sandra Babcock, representing Mexico, said the World Court's decision four years ago referred to 51 Mexican nationals. Since then, 33 had sought reviews of their cases in state courts.

Only one request was granted, Babcock said. A second inmate accepted a commutation to life imprisonment in exchange for waiving his claim for a review.

"All other efforts to enforce the judgment have failed," she said.

Mexico listed five of its citizens slated for imminent execution, all in Texas. The first, on Aug. 5, is Jose Medellin, 33, condemned in the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls 15 years ago in Houston.

Texas authorities have said Medellin's case has been reviewed by state and federal courts and that he had been given the same right as any American citizen.

Babcock said a Texas judge peremptorily dismissed Medellin's appeal for a stay of execution following the Supreme Court decision to allow Congress to consider legislation.

"I'm not here to listen to evidence. I'm here to set an execution date," she quoted the judge as saying, refusing to hear expert witnesses and setting the earliest date possible under state law.

If the U.S. fails to intervene, executive clemency remains the only resort of the condemned men, she said. But since 1982, only two death sentences were commuted through clemency, while 407 inmates were put to death.

The Mexican case is the third time the U.S. death penalty has come before the World Court.

In 1999, German national Walter LaGrand, convicted of murdering a bank manager during a botched robbery, was executed in Arizona just hours after the tribunal in The Hague urged the U.S. to halt the proceeding. Two years later, the court said its injunction in the LaGrand case had been a legal obligation, and the U.S. had violated international law by ignoring it.

In its first case in 1998, the U.S. declined to stop the execution of a Paraguayan citizen in Virginia.

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