FindLaw Legal News - Mexico Seeks End to U.S. Executions of Mexicans: Mexico called Tuesday for urgent stays of execution for 51 Mexicans on U.S. death row as it opened a World Court case arguing the United States had violated their "life or death" rights to consular help. Mexico says U.S. state and municipal officials breached an international treaty by failing to inform the Mexicans of their right to consular assistance after their arrests.
One wonders exactly what Mexico hopes to gain with this case, in real terms. Historically, the US has seldom paid attention to World Court judgements against it -- Mexico must certainly be aware of THAT, if nothing else -- and since there is no disputing that the US breached the terms of the treaty, there is little doubt about the ultimate judgement of the case. Although the issue of the system being problematic may find some traction with Americans, the issue of being executed without proper consultation will not, simply because most Americans don't travel overseas. It's not an issue they'll really see as important at all.
World court cases like this assume that the US has a unitary judicial system, which simply isn't the case. The US has 51 separate (and sometimes equal) jurisdictions. The federal government lacks the political will (and possibly the authority, although that is arguable) to intervene in such cases and say to the states, "Because you did not notify the appropriate Mexican consular authorities, nor did you notify the individual of his right to do so, you may not proceed with this case." Technically, the federal courts could do so -- the states violate federal law when they fail to carry out such notification, since signed and ratified treaties carry the force of federal law with them -- but for whatever reason, federal courts don't consider the lack of notification to be a fatal defect in such cases.
It is also a very real possibility that, assuming a judgement against the US, the administration's position will be, "Fine. We will not execute any Mexican nationals on federal death row while this injunction is in place, or while the case is being argued. However, we do not have the authority to requre the states to abide by a World Court decision; these jurisdictions are not covered, since individual states are not signatories." It's terribly sophistical and disingenuous, of course, but it's entirely likely.Posted by iain at January 21, 2003 03:14 PM
"but for whatever reason, federal courts don't consider the lack of notification to be a fatal defect in such cases."
Many Americans just assume that all foreign governments (and the Mexican government esp.) as deeply flawed, so of _course_ they're not going to do anythin which seems like _consult_ them. Then there's just the ignorance factor, how many people in the US know what a consul is and what they're supposed to do?
Although I don't know what the Mexican government would have been able to do (or would want to do) in these cases, it really is a breach of basic standards. Despicable, entirely predictable, but despicable.