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Mexico calls for clarification of Avena judgment

On 5 June 2008, Mexico submitted a request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) asking the Court to interpret its previous judgment of 31 March 2004 in the Case of Avena and Other Mexican Nationals.   In that case the United States (US) was found to have violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform 51 Mexican nationals of their right to consular access and assistance. The US was duly ordered by the Court to “provide, by means of its own choosing, review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences of the Mexican nationals.”  However, the two states involved disagree about precisely what type of obligation this decision places on the US.
Since the judgment of the ICJ in 2004, cases involving these Mexican nationals have also been pursued through the US courts.  Notably, in the case of Jose Ernesto Medellin v Texas, decided in March 2008, the US Supreme Court held that the judgment of the ICJ was not binding as a matter of US law and moreover a direction from the US President to implement the judgment was unconstitutional.  The matter has become urgent as Mr Medellin has now been scheduled for execution in August 2008.  At the same time as filing its request for an interpretation of the Avena judgment, Mexico submitted a request for provisional measures, asking the Court to order to US to ensure that no executions take place pending the settlement of the dispute.

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