GENEVA, Aug 8 (Reuters) – The U.N. human rights office voiced concern on Friday for the fate of 50 Mexican nationals on death row in the United States after Texas defied a World Court order and executed one of their compatriots earlier this week.
The United States has an international legal duty to comply with a ruling by the International Court of Justice in March 2004 that it had violated its obligations under the Vienna Convention in the cases of 51 Mexican nationals, the U.N. said.
Jose Medellin, executed by lethal injection on Tuesday in Texas for the 1993 rape and murder of 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena, was among the 51 named by the ICJ as having been deprived of their right to consular services after their arrests.
The Mexican government had brought the case against the United States to the Hague court.
The ICJ ordered that the United States ensure that Medellin not be executed unless and until he received a review of his case to determine whether the breach of the Vienna Convention prejudiced his defense, U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.
“The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights notes that the ICJ orders remain valid for another 50 Mexican nationals on death row in the United States whose situation is similar to that of Mr. Medellin,” he said.
The U.N. human rights office has long opposed the death penalty, saying it should be imposed only for the worst crimes after a fair trial that meets international standards.
“The finality of the death penalty makes it essential that it is applied with scrupulous attention to safeguards set down in international law,” Colville said.
“One of those safeguards is that foreign nationals should have access to consular services. That is crucial for the protection of all individuals who travel abroad,” he said, referring to the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
U.S. President George W. Bush directed Texas to comply with the 2004 ruling mandating review of the cases. The U.S. Supreme Court said in March Bush’s action had exceeded his authority.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a last-minute public appeal to the United States to stay Medellin’s execution.
The U.N. human rights office had contacted the U.S. government regarding the Medellin case before his execution, according to Colville, who declined to provide details.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour stepped down at the end of her term on June 30, and is to be succeeded by South African judge Navanethem Pillay on Sept 1.
The Government of Mexico issued a statement after the execution, which it said had been carried out “in clear contempt” of the ICJ order.
The statement continued: “The Government of Mexico sent the US Department of State a diplomatic note of protest for this violation of international law, expressing its concern for the precedent that it may create for the rights of Mexican nationals who may be detained in that country.
“The Ministry of Foreign Relations reiterates that the importance of this case fundamentally stems from the respect to the right to consular access and protection provided by consulates of every State to each of its nationals abroad”.
Jose Medellin got what he deserved, what the jury decided was the appropriate punishment for the crime he was convicted of.What isn’t being told here is that from the time of his arrest, through the trial, conviction and sentencing, Mr. Medillin never once asked to assert his right to speak with the Mexican Consulate. Only during the appeals process of his deth sentence did his attorney’s discover this “point of appeal” and use it in an attempt to get the sentence overturned. From that perspective, Mr. Medellin, was NOT denied his right to consult with the Mexican Consulate. He never made the request.But what if he had been allowed the consultation and what if the other 50 Mexican inmates on death row had been given the same opportunity? Would this change the outcome of their trials or somehow mitigate the sentence?
In a word, NO!
Consulates and Embassies, without regard to nationalitycan only do so much for it’s citizens who have violated another countries laws. They can advise detainees of their rights, make certain they are being treated correctly, notify family of the detainees situation and little else. In the case of American’s detained in say, Mexico, the American Consulates do even less.
Complying with the terms we agreed to under the Vienna Convention would not have changed anything about the Medillin case nor of the other 50 Mexican nationals on Death Row in America. But it would show our willingness to abide by and honor agreements that we, as a nation, have promised to do.
There is an excellent article on Rachel Browning’s Legal Blog outlining and explaining the nuts and bolts of this decision. It is an interesting read.