Mexican Rights Body Urges Action to Overturn Death Sentences of 58 Mexicans in U.S. Prisons

By Edwin Mora | April 12, 2012 | 5:25 PM EDT

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( -- The National Human Rights Commission in Mexico is urging its government to “intensify actions” aimed at overturning the death sentence of 58 Mexican nationals held in U.S. prisons.

In a recent Spanish-language press release, the Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos mentioned that as of 2011, there were 58 Mexicans sentenced to death in U.S. prisons, most of whom come from the states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Jalisco, and Michoacán.

“The commission considers it necessary to intensify actions to avoid the death penalty in cases of Mexicans held in foreign prisons and to safeguard their rights to life, dignity and bodily integrity,” the group stated.

“This is the most severe penalty against people, its compliance is irreversible, and it is a measure that does not guarantee the delivery of justice,” it said.

The commission pointed out that the Mexican government has filed a lawsuit – the “Avena case” – before the International Court of Justice in The Hague on behalf of 39 of the 58 cases, arguing that procedural safeguards provided in the Vienna Convention for Consular Relations have been violated.

The convention requires that people sentenced to death outside of their country receive consular support from their government.

In July 2011, the Obama administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution of a Mexican national in Texas who had been convicted of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl. It argued that carrying out the sentence “would place the United States in irreparable breach of its international law obligation” and cause “irreparable harm” to U.S. interests abroad.

The administration wanted the execution to be delayed until Congress enacted a law that would mandate court review in cases of foreign nationals sentenced to death who did not receive help from their consulates. However, the Supreme Court denied the administration’s request by a 5 to 4 vote.

The commission, a public but autonomous institution whose head is appointed by the Mexican Senate, did not mention the crimes for which the Mexicans have been sentenced to death by U.S. courts.

Citing “official figures,” it stated that “from 2000 to 2011, 745 Mexicans have benefited from a reversal of the death penalty” in the U.S.