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U.N. pushes U.S. to allow Mexico access to nationals on death row

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITEDNATIONS (Reuters) – The 193-member United Nations General Assembly called on the United States on Thursday to implement a 2004 international court ruling by allowing consular access to dozens of Mexicans sentenced to death by U.S. courts and reviewing their cases.

Despite what some diplomats described as strong lobbying by the United States, the General Assembly narrowly adopted a Mexican-drafted resolution with 69 votes in favour, four votes against and 66 abstentions. Another 54 countries did not vote.

The resolution also asks U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to use his good offices to push for implementation of the resolution. General Assembly resolutions are non-binding but can carry political weight.

“The United States believes that it is inappropriate that Mexico has brought this bilateral matter to the U.N. General Assembly,” Kelley Currie, U.S. Ambassador for Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations, said.

Relations between Mexico and the United States are already at a low, hurt by U.S. President Donald Trump’s vows to build a wall along the Mexican border.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled in 2004 that the United States had violated international law by failing to inform 51 Mexicans then on death row of their right to consular assistance, and said the cases should be reviewed.

The U.N. resolution said six of those Mexicans have since been executed.

“Under these circumstances, having exhausted all efforts … the Mexican Government has decided to appeal to the General Assembly,” Mexico’s U.N. Ambassador Juan José Gómez Camacho said.

He said it was not a strictly bilateral issue as “it violates the international law and has a profound impact on the system of the United Nations as a whole.”

Currie said the United States continued to take steps related to the international court judgement and has engaged extensively with Mexico. However, she added that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling said the International Court of Justice decision “does not constitute directly enforceable federal law.”

She said the U.S. State Department had engaged with relevant state authorities in the United States to urge them to take the necessary steps related to the international court ruling.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Additional reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher in Mexico City; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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