Wednesday, 2 March 2011

THE FRENCH POLITICAL SPOIL: FLORENCE CASSEZ

The Mexican and French media were very attentive to the case of Florence Cassez. In March 2009, French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, officially visited Mexico.

Pressures to Sarkozy to take the beautiful Florence back to France, were tremendous. He requested that Cassez could be transferred to a French prison, something she may be entitled to under the 1983 Strasbourg Convention on the transfer of sentenced people, signed by both France and Mexico.



Who is Florence Cassez?

Florence Cassez is a 36-year-old French woman convicted in Mexico of belonging to the kidnapping gang "The Zodiacs". She is currently serving a 60-year sentence. In April 2006, Florence Cassez was sentenced to 96 years in jail, but after a legal dispute the sentence was reduced to 60 years.

Florence was a sociable teenager. She continued until high school to first class, and then chose different direction to join: a year of commercial training before entering the workforce.

She had many friends, some of whom still remember her perfectly. Cassez also took some dance lessons. Later she took art classes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.





A journey starts

In 2003, Cassez was responsible for a large store of a regional teaching French. She always waited up, did more and did better. Florence Cassez's brother, an entrepreneur in Mexico for 6 years, offered her coming work with him. She accepted the idea and went to Mexico. Cassez learned the Spanish language in 6 months. Months later, she met Israel Vallarta, a Mexican man, who became his boyfriend.

She spent several months with him before returning to France. In 2005 Cassez was in France but Vallarta called her and as her new job did not satisfy her, she took the decision to come back Mexico to live with his boyfriend in his ranch. After some months, Cassez found a job in a hotel. She had already decided to rent an apartment to live alone.


Mexican-French Cooperation

Mexico bilateral cooperation, France stands out in the aircraft industry, agribusiness and infrastructure. Both countries have a long tradition of cooperation.

The French multinational food, DANONE, owner of the world-famous water brand, Evian, plans to build a mega farm with capacity for more than 10.000 cows, working in conjunction with small producers.
In the aerospace sector, cooperation is based on the transfer of skills and technology.

Mexico hosts 300 French companies that employ about 80 thousand people, making France one of the largest foreign investors in Mexico, behind only the United States and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, France has in Mexico its second investment destination in Latin America, after Brazil. Mexico is the main Latin American investor in France.



Mexico is not the United States


The refusal of a country to extradite suspects or criminals to another could affect international relations a lot. It is coomon that the country to which extradition is refused will incriminate the other country of refusing extradition for political reasons, even if those reasons are not justified.

In 1997 special attention had the case of Ira Einhorn, in which some US commentators pressured the ex french President Jacques Chirac not to intervene in legal cases, to permit extradition when the case was held up due to differences between French and American human rights law.

Ira Einhorn, better known as "The Unicorn Killer", is a convicted murderer, and former American activist of the 1960s and 1970s. He is now serving a life sentence for the 1977 murder of Holly Maddux.

In 1997, Einhorn was located and arrested in Champagne-Mouton, France where he had been living under the name "Eugene Mallon". His extradition to the United States, however, was much more complicated than many policymakers believed have been putting in evidence the different interpretations that had France and the U.S. about the "right to a fair trial." The agreements with both countries, they may refuse extradition if it considers that the accused can't get a fair trial.

Finally, American pressure was much stronger than the French government's position and on July 20, 2001, Einhorn was extradited to the United States.

I wonder... if Florence Cassez had been arrested in the United States, France was pressing so severely?

A great controversy

Is it authentic and worthy the French government's position to what happened to one of its citizens, Florence Cassez? If you have to wait for a response from the country in which you were born, obviously France should and must demand that Florence Cassez's human rights are respected.

The low popularity of President Sarkozy and President Calderon has created a climate of hostility and doubts about the statements and actions of both leaders.

The controversy started when the Mexican television presented a report that recreated the events of how Florence Cassez and his accomplices were arrested. Cassez was actually captured on December 8, 2005 and not on December 9, 2005 as believed. The authorities stated that this was done with the aim of recreating the facts as Cassez was arrested.

Perhaps many of us have in our minds the idea that a kidnapper to give her no compassion, because she had no compassion for their victims, and that must be tough against the hijackers and more in Mexico where its citizens live in constant tension because of the criminal organizations that exist.


Foreign Affairs Secretariat

Press Release 047
Foreign Affairs Secretariat
Mexico City

The Foreign Affairs Secretariat
confirmed that French National Florence Cassez may not be transferred to fulfill her sentence in France under the Strasbourg Convention.

Yesterday, spokesman for the French government François Baroin asked Mexico to, “Respect the international agreements it had signed, particularly those concerning the transfer to their country of origin of persons condemned abroad.”

The Secretariat of Foreign Affairs said that the Strasbourg Agreement on the Transfer of Condemned Persons establishes clearly and unequivocally that consent is required from the sentencing state and the executing state in order to implement these provisions. In other words, permitting the transfer is a decision that must be taken by the country where the party to be transferred resides.

With regard to the Florence Cassez case and in response to a letter from President Nicolás Sarkozy, President Felipe Calderón declared, on 6 February 2009, that only after a condemnatory sentence had been established, “Would it be possible to explore the applicability of the Agreement on the Transfer of Condemned Persons adopted in Strasburg, France on 21 March 1983.”

Contrary to what anonymous sources have declared, at no time did the Mexican head of state pledge to carry out the transfer requested.

As the text of the letter shows, the commitment was restricted to “exploring the applicability” of the Strasburg Agreement.

In order to examine this possibility, in March 2009, Presidents Calderón and Sarkozy established a bi-national commission of jurists to conduct a detailed examination of the Strasbourg Convention.

In June 2009, after the bi-national commission had met for three months, the Mexican government concluded that there was an absence of conditions allowing it to consent to Florence Cassez's transfer to France.

President Felipe Calderón confirmed this decision in a letter to President Nicolás Sarkozy dated 22 July 2009, stating that, “The differences between the legal systems of Mexico and France prevent my government from allowing Ms. Cassez to be transferred to France to complete the sentence passed by Mexican courts.

In the same letter, President Calderón added that: “This decision, which is fully based on the Strasbourg Agreement, includes prior consent from the state where the person to be transferred resides among its requirements.”

It is therefore incorrect to say that a statement was issued that Florence Cassez would be transferred in the event that her sentence was definitive.

The Mexican government’s position is based on the following considerations:

1. There are substantial differences between the Mexican and French legal systems preventing Florence Cassez from fulfilling the sentence passed by the Mexican courts entirely in France.
2. France’s statements regarding its interpretation of the Strasbourg Convention constitute an impediment to guaranteeing that Florence Cassez will be able to fulfill the whole of her sentence in French territory.
3. These declarations state that, in the event that Florence Cassez was transferred to her country of origin, her sentence would be subject to the decisions of the French legal authorities regarding the modalities of their execution, including its suspension or reduction.
4. For Mexico, fulfilling the full 60 year sentence is an essential condition, since in the case of serious crimes such as abduction; the law does not contemplate early release or the reduction of sentences.

The Mexican government fulfils its international obligations unquestionably and in good faith. In this case, it has done so by exploring the possibility of applying the Strasbourg Convention in the case of Florence Cassez, as it pledged to do.

A detailed review of this case lead to an irrefutable conclusion: agreeing to her transfer would mean authorizing another state to permit the unjustified reduction or even elimination of the sentence warranted by the crimes committed by Florence Cassez in Mexico.

In Mexico, the crime of abduction is punished by the maximum sentence. It is a severe legal order that expresses Mexican society's condemnation of this crime and its determination to eliminate it.

This is the punishment given to anyone in Mexico sentenced for this serious crime, whether Mexican or foreign.

Contrary to what anonymous sources have declared, at no time did the Mexican head of state pledge to carry out the transfer requested.



The former cultural counselor of the French Embassy in Washington and Rome, Patrick Talbot, refused to receive the Legion of Honor by the French government's decision to devote the year of Mexico in France to Florence Cassez.

He is also former director of the prestigious Arles photo, this year planned to hold a photo exhibition in Mexico. Talbot sent a letter to Sarkozy where criticizes in harsh terms his decision.

Talbo said that it is unfair to mix culture, justice, diplomacy and politics.

Sarkozy, also received strong criticism in parliament of his country, both from the left and right, for deteriorating relations with Mexico, following the case Cassez. The conservative lawmaker, Chantal Brunel, said in her speech that being French abroad does not mean to be innocent, referring to Cassez. The lawmaker Francois Bayrou, branded as brutal the foreign policy of Sarkozy.


What to expect?

Sarkozy's decision to dedicate Cassez the Year of Mexico in France has damaged bilateral relations a lot. He did it just days after the ex French Foreign Minister, Michele Alliot Marie, called the decision of the Mexican federal court "unjust" and "deplorable". That was the main reason that made Mexico cancels "The Year of Mexico in France", which consists in diverse events, films, and conferences.

In 2012, it will be Mexico's turn to assume the presidency of the G-20. France would present the Cassez's case next year. Maybe the case reaches the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and it will make that many doubts are cleared.

If Cassez's lawyers have the evidences that prove their client's innocence, then they have to show justice those evidences.

Sarkozy has to know that he is not defending Joan of Arc. Evidences show that Cassez effectively was a member of a dangerous gang. Both, victims and their accomplices have openly declared that she participated in some kidnappings. So, Sarkozy should be more cautious in his declarations against Mexico. Nationality does not play in this case.

We hope that soon that impasse, which must be treated as something purely legal, is resolved and that prevail mainly the relationship of friendship and brotherhood that both nations have had for a long time.

Source 1:
http://sre.gob.mx/english/

Source 2: http://liberezflorencecassez.com/

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