World Court: U.S. must stay execution of 3 Mexicans on death row

AP, Feb. 5, 2003

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United States must temporarily stay the execution of three Mexican citizens on U.S. death row, the World Court ruled Wednesday.

In a unanimous decision, the 15-judge panel said the delay was needed while the U.N. court investigated whether the men — and 48 other Mexicans on U.S. death row — were given their right to legal help from the Mexican government.

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The World Court, officially known as the International Court of Justice, is the U.N.’s court for resolving disputes between nations. It has no power to enforce its decisions, and the United States has disregarded them in the past.

Reading Wednesday’s ruling, Presiding Judge Gilbert Guillaume said the court supported Mexico’s argument that executing the men would cause “irreparable” damage to their rights if the court later finds in Mexico’s favor.

“The United States shall take all measures necessary to ensure that (the men) are not executed pending final judgment in these proceedings,” he said.

The men whose executions have temporarily been barred are Cesar Fierro, Roberto Ramos and Osvaldo Torres Aguilera, all of whom had exhausted their appeals and whose execution date was soon to have been scheduled.

Mexico filed its suit against the United States last month, asking the court to stay the execution of all 51 Mexicans on death row, but it found the United States must stay death sentences in just the three most urgent cases for now.

The United States had argued that Mexico’s initial request amounted to “a sweeping prohibition of capital punishment of Mexican nationals in the United States regardless of U.S. law” and would infringe on both U.S. national sovereignty and states’ rights.

The court has yet to set a date for when it will hear oral arguments in the case and consider whether them prisoners’ rights were indeed violated under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Rights.

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