Request for Interpretation of the Judgment of 31 March 2004 in the Case concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. USA)

On 5 June 2008 Mexico filed a Request for Interpretation of part of the Judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Case concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. USA) on 31 March 2004.

The request for interpretation concerned a dispute as to the correct interpretation of the Court’s ruling of the remedial obligations incumbent on the United States. The section in question, paragraph 153 (9) of the Judgment, states the obligation to “provide, by means of its own choosing, review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences of the Mexican nationals.”

On 16 July 2008, the ICJ ordered the United States to take “all measures necessary” to ensure that no Mexican nationals were executed pending the Court’s interpretation. Mr. Medellin, a Mexican national mentioned in the original Avena Judgment, was executed on 5 August 2008.

On Monday 19 January 2009, the ICJ delivered its Judgment, ruling by eleven votes to one that the matters claimed by Mexico to be in issue between the Parties were not matters that were decided in the Avena Judgment. The Court thus declined Mexico’s request for interpretation. The ICJ ruled that there was no dispute on the nature of the obligation laid down in paragraph 153 (9). On the  further question of whether there was a dispute as to upon whom that obligation falls, the Court ruled that Mexico had not established the existence of a dispute between itself and the United States. The Court considered the US Supreme Court decision in Medellin v. Texas as demonstrating a difference of perception between the Parties, but ultimately found no dispute existed.

In the same Judgment the ICJ unanimously held that the United States had breached its Order of 16 July 2008 by executing Mr. Medellin. The Court reaffirmed the continued binding character of the original Avena Judgment on the United States, requiring review of the cases of other Mexican nationals facing execution, but did not determine any further legal consequences of the violation of the United States.

Avena as a Challenge to the Federal American Legal System
Research/ miscellaneous (Research Document)
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