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The highest court in the land

In “What’s wrong with this picture?” we noted the case of Osbaldo Torres. Torres is one of 52 Mexicans on death row in the United States whose execution the government of Mexico seeks to prevent, claiming the failure of state authorities to advise the Mexicans of their right to consult with consular officials taints their convictions. Torres’s execution has awaited further proceedings in the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
Does the ICJ have jurisdiction to prevent these executions? The United States argued that the ICJ does not exercise any judicial power of the United States, which is vested exclusively by the Constitution in the United States federal courts. Torres had failed to raise the international law issue in his state court murder trial and the federal courts (including the Supreme Court) were not impressed with it when Torres raised it in habeas corpus proceedings. Seven of nine United States Supreme Court justices voted not to hear the the Torres case. The State Department nevertheless prevailed on the states including Oklahoma and Texas to stay the executions of the convicted murderers pending the outcome of the ICJ proceedings.
Today the ICJ ruled that the United States violated the rights of 47 of the 52 Mexicans on death row and ordered their cases be reviewed. “The U.S. should provide by means of its own choosing meaningful review of the conviction and sentence” of the Mexicans, presiding judge Shi Jiuyong said. The court also dismissed four U.S. objections to the ICJ’s jurisdiction to order relief in the cases. The AP story reporting today’s ICJ decision is “Court says U.S. violated Mexicans’ rights.”
This is a case that we would love to see discussed on the record with Monsieur Kerry.

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