UN rights chief: US execution of Mexico national violated international law

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday criticized the US execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia [advocacy website] a day earlier, saying that the sentence violated international law. Pillay said that the US denied consular access [press release] to Leal Garcia, which was his right under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [text, PDF]. Although the State of Texas convicted and sentenced Leal Garcia for murder in 1998, Pillay noted the broad reach of the state's actions:

Today's execution will undermine the role of the International Court of Justice, and its ramifications are likely to spread far beyond Texas. It is also the responsibility of all federal countries ensure that all individual states respect the international obligations assumed by the country as a whole.
Officials from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] earlier this month appealed unsuccessfully to Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website; JURIST report] and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles [official website] to stay the execution. The US Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to stay the execution Thursday, with the majority in a split per curiam opinion rejecting the Obama administration's arguments that Leal Garcia's execution would be detrimental to foreign policy to the degree that they needed to introduce a stay. Texas officials executed [KTSM report] Leal Garcia an hour after the decision.

The execution has drawn criticism from several sources. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] criticized the US for the execution [press release] on Friday, saying that Leal Garcia did not receive a fair trial. A number of US officials have also criticized the execution, including diplomats and US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website], the author of the Consular Notification Compliance Act, who said, "Americans detained overseas rely on their access to US consulates every day. If we expect other countries to abide by the treaties they join, the United States must also honor its obligations." Mexico, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Switzerland, Uruguay and the EU had sent letters to the US requesting a stay of the execution. Former president George W. Bush denounced the sentence when he was in office, issuing an executive memoranda [text, PDF] that Texas had to comply with the ICJ's ruling in approximately 50 Mexican nationals' planned executions. Texas has already executed two Mexican nationals [JURIST report] who were denied consular access.

 

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