TEXAS TO EXECUTE ANOTHER MEXICO CITIZEN IN AUGUST
by Diego Cevallos
(IPS) MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican government's aggressive strategy to prevent the execution of Mexican citizens in the United States has so far failed to bear fruit, despite a landmark international court ruling.
Aug. 5 is the date set Monday by a Texas court for the execution of Jose Medellin, one of 51 Mexican nationals on death row in the United States.
"Mexico must not and cannot let down its guard, but it has certainly begun to run out of options," Alberto Herrera, spokesman in Mexico for the London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International, told IPS.
Medellin, arrested in 1993 for taking part in the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls, is on his way to becoming the seventh Mexican citizen executed in the United States since the early 1970s. The two girls, Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, had taken a shortcut home through the woods in Houston, Texas one night in June 1993 when they ran into Medellin and five other members of the "Black and White" gang who were engaged in an initiation rite. The girls were gang-raped and finally choked, beaten and kicked to death. Medellin was 18 years old at the time. Fabian Sanchez, who was director of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights until 2007, told IPS that "this is the time for direct intervention by the Mexican President (Felipe Calderon), now that all other options have failed."
"The pressure should be increased as much as possible; there is no other way," said Sanchez.
On Mar. 25, the Supreme Court rejected a 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that the convictions of Medellin and the other Mexicans on death row violated the 1963 Vienna Convention, which states that people arrested abroad must have access to consular officials from their home country.
The ICJ, based in The Hague, said the Mexicans -- including Medellin -- should have new court hearings to determine whether their cases were affected by the denial of their right to consular representation.
"Courts in the United States openly ignore and contravene international law, but the possibility of challenging the situation and protesting remains open, and Mexico should do that," said Herrera.
Sanchez took a similar position. "It is outrageous for the United States to refuse to respect such an important international ruling, which is why President Calderon should speak out against it."
The Mexican Foreign Ministry lamented the decision to set an execution date for Medellin, and said the government "will exhaust all of the resources within its reach to get the United States to comply with its international obligations and review and reconsider the sentence as provided for by the Avena ruling (as the ICJ verdict is known)."
Mexico does not have the death penalty and refuses to extradite people to countries where they could face capital punishment.
In June 2006, Mexican serial killer Angel Maturino was executed by lethal injection in Texas, for the robbery, rape and murder of a 39-year-old woman in 1998.
Although Maturino was not included in the group of Mexicans whose right to consular representation was denied -- to whom the ICJ ruling applied -- the Mexican government did everything possible to prevent his execution, including a last-minute plea for clemency.
But the execution went ahead despite the fact that Matutino was declared mentally ill by a team of experts, after the judge found that he was "sufficiently competent."
For eight years, the Mexican government has carried out a diplomatic and legal offensive aimed at preventing the execution of Mexican citizens in the United States, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on private lawyers, for example.
In that context, the ICJ ruling was considered a historic achievement.
But judges in the U.S. refused to respect it even after President George W. Bush urged that they do so.
Amnesty International reports that 22 foreign nationals have been executed in the United States since 1988, and that virtually none of them had been informed, upon arrest, of their Vienna Convention right to contact their consulates.
Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations states that "...if he so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall...inform the consular post of the sending State if...a national of that State is arrested or committed to prison.... The said authorities shall inform the person concerned without delay of his rights under this sub-paragraph."
The Convention was ratified by the United States in 1969.
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