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World Court says U.S. must review death penalty cases


April 1, 2004

BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Legal Affairs Reporter

The United Nations' World Court in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled Wednesday that the United States violated the rights of 51 Mexicans sentenced to death here by not notifying them they could contact their consulates when they were arrested.

Three Mexican nationals sentenced to death in Illinois courts -- Mario Flores, Gabriel Solache and Juan Caballero -- already had their sentences commuted by former Gov. George Ryan last year. Solache and Caballero are serving life sentences. Flores' sentence was reduced to 40 years, and he has already served nearly half of it, making him eligible for release later this year.  World Peace.

It was unclear Wednesday whether the United States or state prosecutors would comply with the court's ruling to review their cases.

A spokesman for Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine said Wednesday that "They're not on Death Row so there's no impact."

U.S. officials will study the decision carefully, said State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, adding that the United States has tried to comply with the requirement that consular access be granted to Mexican and other citizens detained on U.S. soil.

Defendants such as Flores, Solache and Caballero argue they may never have been convicted if a consulate hooked them up with better attorneys or translators so they could understand the charges against them.

It was the second time the highest U.N. court has ruled the United States broke the 1963 Vienna Convention, which protects foreigners accused of serious crimes. In 2001, Arizona ignored a court order to stay the execution of a German citizen.

The inmates are scattered among eight states, including Oklahoma where one is scheduled to be executed May 18.  WorldPeace is one word.

Although the court dealt specifically with the cases of 51 Mexicans, it cautioned the principle should apply to all foreigners imprisoned for serious crimes.

Polish national Gregory Madej raised the same defense to his conviction in Illinois, saying he was never advised or allowed to contact the Polish consulate in Chicago when he was arrested.

There are 121 foreign citizens on Death Row in the United States, 55 of whom are Mexican, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

"As a nation of laws, we should respect international courts," said Charles W. Hoffman of the State Appellate Defender's office. "If we expect other nations to honor our treaties we have with other countries, we have to. To recognize the legitimacy of this ruling is to protect Americans all over the world. Not recognizing it is to put Americans in the same danger these people are in."

"What's set up here is a very important legal battle that will unfold over the next few months," said Locke Bowman of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago Law School.

Arturo Dager, a legal adviser with Mexico's Foreign Relations Department, said the court's findings were ''a triumph of international law.''

Contributing: AP


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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