US EXECUTION BREACHED INTERNATIONAL LAW
January 19, 2009: the execution of a Mexican national in Texas in 2008 breached US obligations under international law, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held.
The court said its 2004 judgment, in which it ordered the United States to review the death sentences of a number of Mexican nationals, remained binding.
"The United States continues to be under an obligation to fully implement it," the ICJ said.
The proceedings go back to 2003, when Mexico brought a case against the United States, arguing that 51 of its citizens sentenced to die in US jails had not been informed of their right to consular assistance. This right typically means diplomats can visit and provide legal advice.
Texas executed one of the Mexicans covered by the original ICJ judgment, 33-year-old Jose Medellin, by lethal injection on August 5. He had been convicted of the 1993 rape and murder of 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena in Houston.
U.S. President George W. Bush had ordered Texas to review Medellin's case but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Bush had no authority to do so.
"There are still 42 Mexican nationals who ... still need to get review and reconsideration," said Joel Antonio Hernandez Garcia, legal adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.
Â "This is an opportunity for the Obama administration to show the world that it will respect the rule of law, even when it's politically unpopular at home," David Fathi of Human Rights Watch said.
The US says that it took steps to comply with the judgement but cannot compel individual state courts to comply.
Some US states have agreed to review their death row cases but Texas maintains that its state courts are not bound by the International Court of Justice. (Sources: Reuters, Bbc, 19/01/2009)