[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Mar 28 18:12:09 CST 2005
Why access to consular rights is important
Recent attempts by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to
insulate U.S. courts from international scrutiny should be interpreted as
a direct assault on Mexican consuls' services.
Last year, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague found
that U.S. officials violated the rights of 51 Mexicans by denying them
access to their nearest consulate after being arrested. Poor, and without
access to lawyers, these Mexicans now sit on death row in the United
Unable to buck the ICJ's ruling, Bush ordered the courts to review the
death sentences. But then, in an attack upon foreign consulates and
Mexican consulates in particular, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
indicated that the United States would withdraw from the ICJ's
THINKING BEYOND POLITICS
U.S. journalists and commentators say that Mexico's interest in these
cases stems from its opposition to the death penalty. This misguided
viewpoint reflects U.S. citizens' incapacity to think beyond politics.
Mexican consuls provide assistance to citizens arrested in the United
States because they believe that they can make a difference in their
This perspective is not grounded solely in the authority of the Vienna
Convention but also in the lengthy experience of Mexicans in the United
States. Since a wave lynchings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
Mexico has sought to protect its nationals against systematic abuses by
U.S. law enforcement officials. Consular protection helps its citizens who
can't afford their own legal defense in the United States.
It is still needed today, and when absent can result in a Mexican being
executed without protections afforded by due process. Csar Fierro was
sentenced to die in Texas in 1980 for the killing of an El Paso taxi
driver, to which he confessed when a detective, later convicted for
perjury, told him that his parents were being held by police in Ciudad
Jurez and would not be released until he confessed.
Gabriel Solache was condemned in 2000 for a double murder in Chicago. He
testified that a police officer assigned to the case beat him over the
course of 40 hours until he confessed. The interview was not videotaped
and the prosecutor, who spoke no Spanish, relied on the testimony of the
police officer. Solache was convicted of capital murder and his case is
still on appeal in Illinois.
In both cases, state law enforcement agents denied both men consular
access. Had police permitted help, it is possible that Fierro and Solache
would not have confessed to the alleged crimes.
Alone in a society with foreign ways, and detained by U.S. law
enforcement, immigrants are vulnerable. Access to the consulate can make a
crucial difference in complex legal proceedings. Such assistance can make
the difference between life or death.
For over a century that's why the Mexican government has sought to protect
the rights of its nationals to access their representatives.
(source: Patrick Timmons is an assistant professor of Latin American
history at Augusta State University in Georgia; El Universal)
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