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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

REMEMBER VICTIMS

Diplomatically speaking, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico had some strong words for two top Mexican lawmakers when they came to plead for mercy for a Mexican man convicted of raping and murdering two teenage girls in Texas.

Ambassador Antonio O. Garza told Sen. Adriana Gonzalez Carrillo and Ruth Zavaleta Salgado, president of the Council of Deputies, that Jose Ernesto Medellin received a fair trial and that they should be thinking of his victims instead of trying to save his life.

"With respect to Mr. Medellin, I made clear that he has been afforded all judicial due process under U.S. law and that we should not lose sight of the fact that the real victims in this case are the two teenage girls he brutally raped and murdered," Mr. Garza told reporters in Mexico City after his meeting with the two legislators on July 24.

Medellin was due to be executed by lethal injection at 11 p.m. Tuesday. He was convicted for his part in the 1993 gang rape and murder of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16.

Mr. Garza also told the lawmakers that the Bush administration did all it could to comply with a ruling by the International Court of Justice, which faulted the United States for failing to inform Medellin that he had a right to contact a Mexican consular officer after his arrest. Mexico brought the case before the world court in 2004.

The Netherlands-based court, which mediates disputes over international treaties, also criticized the United States for failing to inform 50 other Mexicans on death row in various U.S. states of their right to consult a Mexican diplomat after their arrests. That right is enshrined in the 1963 Vienna Convention to which the United States is a signatory.

The court called on the United States to give Medellin a new hearing to determine whether Texas violated his rights under the Vienna treaty and later ordered the United States to halt his execution. President Bush said he disagreed with the world court opinion but recognized that the United States has obligations under the Vienna treaty and asked Texas to review the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a strong 6-3 decision in March, upheld the Texas conviction and ruled that state governments are not subject to world court orders.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in Mexico City for an international AIDS conference, also made a last-minute appeal to the U.S. to stay the execution.

'Promote hope'

A top U.S. diplomat criticized Sri Lanka for failing to protect human rights as the government extends its control over the island while isolating a brutal insurgency to a small pocket of territory.

"We need to see an end to some of the abuses that continue to occur," Richard A. Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, told reporters at a press conference in the capital, Colombo, on Sunday.

He cited "disappearances, abductions, illegal detentions, various situations that you are all quite familiar with on this island."

Mr. Boucher said he assured Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama of Washington's support for Sri Lanka's democratically elected government and in its fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. However, he told reporters that the United States expects a lot from its democratic allies.

"Sometimes, it seems like criticism and pressure, but we do expect a democratic government to live up to its ideals that we are all, in our own way, trying to live up to in our own democracies," said Mr. Boucher, who was in Sri Lanka to attend a meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

"The time to promote reconciliation and trust, the time to promote hope, is now," he added.

Sri Lankan officials have repeatedly said they want a negotiated end to the 30-year conflict with the Tamil separatists and are trying prosecuting any officials charged with human rights violations.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.