World Court Says Texas Violated Law By Executing A Mexican Who Doesn't Really Benefit From Their Decision

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Jose Medellin is probably in Hell, if you believe in that sort of thing, and we're not sure how good the Internet service is down there. (We're guessing they use Comcast, though.)

Medellin was executed in August by Texas after being convicted of the murder of 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena.

His execution drew protests from around the world; for one thing, people argued that Texas had failed to inform Medellin that he could get assistance from the Mexican consul's office. A 2004 ruling by the court included Medellin in a list of cases that should be stayed pending review.

But the execution went ahead anyway, and the World Court in The Hague ruled today that the US broke international law by doing so.

The ruling doesn't do a heck of a lot for Medellin, but there are 42 other Mexican nationals who could get their cases reviewed under the decision, with the ball soon to be in the Obama administration's court.

"There are still 42 Mexican nationals who ... still need to get review and reconsideration. We now have the ICJ ruling for us to keep on insisting on the U.S. international obligations," said Joel Antonio Hernandez Garcia, legal adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

Several other Mexicans have had their cases reviewed. "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 United States accepts that the original 2004 ruling places on it a binding legal obligation, said John Bellinger, legal adviser at the U.S. Department of State, adding it was disappointing the court had held that Medellin's execution violated international law.

"Mr. Medellin has had numerous reviews of his case ... It is worth noting that his absence of consular notification was in fact specifically reviewed by a number of state and federal courts," Bellinger said.

Under the Vienna Convention, foreign nationals have a right to talk to consular officers after their arrests.

Hopefully, the consular officers would say something like "Don't murder 16-year-old girls, asshole."

-- Richard Connelly

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