AP, Jan. 9, 2003
By LISA J. ADAMS, Associated Press Writer
MEXICO CITY- Mexico on Thursday asked the World Court in the Hague to resolve the case of 54 Mexicans on death row in the United States who allegedly were denied their rights to consular representation under an international treaty.
Mexico’s foreign relations department has made such allegations against the United States in the past _ one recent case led President Vicente Fox to cancel a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush last summer. But this is the first time officials have brought the matter to an international court.
In a news release, the foreign relations department said it had asked the court to rule that municipal and state officials in the United States had violated the 1963 Vienna Convention of Consular Relations. The convention obligates authorities to inform detained foreign nationals that they have the right to assistance from the consulates of their native countries.
The 54 Mexican nationals currently on death row in the United States were denied this right, the foreign relations department said, and as a result “they didn’t receive the timely assistance from Mexican consular representatives that could have avoided application of the death penalty.”
In Washington, the U.S. State Department wouldn’t comment on Mexico’s petition before the Hague Court.
Mexican law prohibits the death penalty and Mexico won’t extradite its own citizens to face criminal charges in the United States in cases where the death penalty or a life sentence may be applied.
The issue is an important and sensitive one for Mexicans. Last August, Fox canceled a scheduled visit with Bush at his Texas ranch after the U.S. president refused to pardon a Mexican national on death row in Texas.
Fox contended that the prisoner, Javier Suarez Medina, was never told he could contact the Mexican consulate for help after his 1988 arrest.
In that case, U.S. officials said that they weren’t clear if Suarez, who spent most of his life in the United States, was even Mexican.
In addition to asking the court to rule that the prisoners’ rights were violated, Mexican officials want the tribunal to order U.S. authorities to review the convictions and death sentences in each one of the 54 cases. Finally, it asks the court to ensure that none of the prisoners is executed or scheduled to be put to death until the court has resolved the case.
The foreign relations department said that before it decided to submit its petition to the court, it had “exhausted every recourse” before local and federal authorities in the United States and other international agencies.
“Despite those efforts … in the past decade five Mexicans have been executed,” the release said.
“Mexico’s petition does not constitute a political confrontation that will affect bilateral relations with the United States,” the bulletin said. “It seeks to obligate the state and local authorities to comply with their obligations in terms of consular notification.”