Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Texas Executes Mexican National in Defiance of ICJ Rulings

Late Tuesday night, 5 August, the State of Texas executed José Ernesto Medellín, despite a call from the UN Secretary-General urging the United States (US) not to go ahead with the execution and to respect the judgements of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In 2004 the ICJ ruled in the Avena case that the US was obligated to provide a judicial remedy of "review and reconsideration" of the convictions and sentences of José Medellín and 50 other Mexican nationals named in the judgement and in similar situations.

Mexico had turned to the ICJ claiming that the US had violated its obligations under Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform detained Mexican nationals of their right to consular services after their arrest and for failing to notify the Mexican consulate of their detention.

President Bush ordered Texas to provide such a review, but in March 2008 the US Supreme Court concluded in Medellín v. Texas that the ICJ judgement was not binding on Texas and that the president lacked the constitutional authority to order the state to comply.

In June 2008 Mexico filed a request with the ICJ for interpretation of the Avena judgement on the scope and meaning of the US remedial obligations and applied for the indication of provisional measures of protection. The Court ordered the US Government to "take all measures necessary" to halt the upcoming execution of five Mexicans including Medellín, pending judgement on the request for interpretation.

After the US Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal by Medellín’s lawyers to stop the execution by arguing that it should be postponed until Congress had a chance to pass pending legislation that would require a review of similar cases, José Medellín was put to death by lethal injection.

At the very end of a brief filed in opposition to Medellín’s final appeal Texas makes a statement (pp. 17-18) indicating some kind of concession to the ICJ with regard to other Mexican nationals on death row in Texas and subject to the Avena judgement.

See the April issue of the Suffolk Transnational Law Review which is entirely dedicated to this case under the title: Medellín v. Texas: A Symposium (Vol. 31, No.2, Symposium 2008).


Niels said...

This is an interesting case of the difficulties of enforcing international judgments on the separate states of a federal state.

Whereas unitary states can easily comply, the central government of a federal state can have a lot of difficulty in enforcing international judgments on their separate states.

In this case, the state of Texas has decided not to comply with the ICJ judgment, and the US Supreme Court agreed that this was legal.

If a supreme court argues that this is legally the case, then there is no possibility that a federal state can be forced to follow the ICJ judgment inside the federal framework.


While one must not forget that this is clearly a violation of the convention on consular relations, a retrial/reconsideration might fall under res judicata especially as the rule of double jeopardy comes into play for a crime of this severity.

Would this person be allowed a retrial under US law without the retrial resulting in a double jeopardy rule?

There was no mistrial.
The defendant was convicted.
The case was not dismissed.
The trial is deemed fair.

Is a judgment of the ICJ sufficient under US law to waive the double jeopardy rule?
Or would this result in a release of the convicted person?

Since the defendant was found guilty for the brutal gang-rape and murder of 2 teenage girls (14 and 16 year old respectively), one can understand the reluctance of the State of Texas to follow the judgment of the ICJ for a retrial/reconsideration.

It would result in a difficult legal situation, with large and long-term legal repercussions.

And it would be highly unjust for a convicted rapist and murderer to be left free, and not accountable for his actions under the law of the state in which he perpetuated his crimes.


While the judgment of the ICJ is fair, the choice of the state of Texas to ignore the judgment is also understandable.

The United States should rapidly implement legislation, national-and statewide, in order to ensure that foreign nationals have access to their embassies if they commit crimes.

This will ensure that the guilty will still be punished without any witholding of basic rights.

This does not make it good and just, but this is an imperfect world with imperfect laws and imperfect people.

And its the only one there is.

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