The 54 Mexicans

Would you believe that now, even in the 21th century, the rights of minority have been denied in the United States of America before? According to Mexico, it is possible. More than 10 Mexicans were sentenced to death, but they weren’t allowed to prove they were innocent. As soon as Mexico learned the truth, they argued 10 states of United States had violated the 54 Mexicans’ consular rights regarding with the Vienna Convention.

The Vienna Convention

Before going on to the case, what is a “consular right” and what does it have to do with the Vienna Convention? Most people do not recognize the difference between the consul and ambassador’s job. However, while the ambassador is the main representative of its country and make negotiations related to culture, economics, military relations, politics, et cetera, the consul usually protect and help their nationals’ civil complaints.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Rights was established in 1963 and contains 79 articles. The article which the States failed to keep is Article 36. The following is an excerpt from the Vienna Convention Article 36 (2).

if he so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall, without delay, inform the consular post of the sending State if, within its consular district, a national of that State is arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner. Any communication addressed to the consular post by the person arrested, in prison, custody or detention shall be forwarded by the said authorities without delay.

The Arguments

Mexico repeatedly pointed out to the Court they had not been notified of Mexicans being sentenced to death. The United States had fought back by claiming they had served all detained nationals after the LaGrand Case (Germany v. United States of America. This case was also related with foreigners not able to exercise their consular rights in the States. At the time, the Court was in favor of Germany nationals.) Also, the United States argued the Article 36 “creates no obligations constraining its right to arrest a foreign national”, and so the Court does not have the jurisdictional and admissibility right to make a decision over this case. Yet the Court overruled the objections, and considered this case as “the matter of merits”. In the end, the Court finally judged the United States had indeed breached the obligations regarding to Article 36 on March 2009.

The Bittersweet Taste

After the United States had lost two cases over consular rights in the Court, on March 2005, they removed the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which gave the Court the right to rule over any disputes regarding the Vienna Convention. Then in 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled foreign nationals may not use the treaty to raise legal objections after trial. People didn’t have to think hard why US had taken these measures.

Reporter’s Quotes

After reading the application of Mexico, the reporter couldn’t help but getting surprised at the truth that United States had really denied the consular rights of a foreign. The reporter hopes the readers realize there are more violations of one’s rights than we think, and people should constantly pay their attention and check if their country has violated the Vienna Convention.


Written by JeYun Choi


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