Mexico Challenges U.S. Death Sentences

Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. USA) is being argued this week in the International Court of Justice in the Hague. This is the lawsuit that Mexico has brought against the US over its failure to advise 52 Mexican nationals on death rows in the U.S. of their Vienna Convention rights, specifically, their right to consular help after arrest.

The case is the result of a long-running dispute between the United States and its southern neighbor and underlines deep concern among some of Washington's closest allies over its capital punishment laws.

"We are asking the court to tell the United States to retry these nationals, but this time with the consular assistance they are entitled to," said Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo, chief legal representative for Mexico. "Consular help could have meant the difference between life and death," lawyer Sandra Babcock told the judges as the Mexican side made its opening arguments.

Mexico accuses U.S. authorities of breaching the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to tell the Mexicans -- subsequently sentenced to death in 10 U.S. states -- of their right to assistance from their national representatives.....Mexico went to The Hague-based International Court of Justice or World Court because all other legal and diplomatic efforts to solve the issue had been exhausted, an official said.

According to Amnesty International statistics, a total of 71 prisoners were executed in the United States last year, bringing to 820 the total number of prisoners put to death since the resumption of capital punishment there in 1977. The death penalty has not been applied in Mexico for at least four decades.

The court's history of the case is here. The oral arguments started today and will continue on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Transcripts can be accessed here.

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