WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Bush has decided to comply with the World Court‘s decision last year to review the cases of 51 Mexicans on death row in the United States because they were not told of their right to talk to consular officials shortly after their arrests.
In a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 28, Justice Department attorneys said state courts would review the convictions and sentences of the 51 individuals to determine whether the violation of their rights caused harm to the defense either at trial or at sentencing.
Human Rights Watch
Bush’s decision was contained in a Feb. 28 memorandum to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and was included in the brief.
The attorneys said Bush determined that foreign policy interests justified compliance with the decision of the World Court, which is also known as the International Court of Justice.
“Compliance serves to protect the interests of United States citizens abroad, promotes the effective conduct of foreign relations and underscores the United States’ commitment in the international community to the rule of law,” they said.
The World Court in The Hague, in a decision on March 31, 2004, said the United States should review the cases of the 51 Mexican death row inmates because U.S. officials failed to tell them of their right under the Vienna Convention to talk to consular officers right after their arrests.
Under the Vienna Convention, which the United States ratified in 1969, U.S. officials must tell foreign nationals of their right to contact their consulates after their arrest and must notify the consulate of the arrest.
The U.S. government previously left it up to the states to decide what to do in the cases of the 51 Mexicans. Texas has refused to review any cases of the Mexicans on its death row.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on March 28 in the case of one of the Mexicans, Jose Medellin, who was convicted of murder during a sexual assault and sentenced to death in 1994.