The International Court of Justice (ICJ) today ruled that the United States has breached its obligations under an international convention to 51 Mexicans on death row in US jails when it did not inform them of their right to contact their consular representatives "without delay" after their arrest.
Sitting in The Hague, the ICJ - also known as the World Court - found that the US had breached several obligations contained in the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
In 49 of the cases, the US failed to enable Mexican consular officials to contact and visit their nationals, while in 34 cases the US did not allow Mexican consular officials to arrange legal representation for their nationals.
The court rejected Mexico's request that the convictions and sentences be totally or partially annulled. Instead the judges said the US should choose a means of review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences that conforms with the relevant provisions of the Vienna Convention.
The ICJ said it found no evidence, as suggested by Mexico, of a "regular and continuing" pattern of breaches of one of the Convention's provisions, and said the US was now trying to meet its obligations.
The judges also said that while the current case concerned only Mexicans, its ruling may also apply to other foreign nationals in a similar situation in the US.
All the detainees involved in the case, known as Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. US), are awaiting capital punishment after being convicted of serious crimes. The ICJ's judgement is binding and cannot be appealed.