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Serbia urges US to block execution of citizen

The Serbian government filed an amicus curiae on Friday in a Nevada court seeking to block the execution of a Serbian citizen on the grounds that the country's consulate was not informed of the man's arrest in 1994. Serbia contends that Avram Nika, convicted of killing of a man who had stopped to help him on a highway in Nevada, would have been provided with better assistance [AP report] and counsel had the consulate offices been notified of his arrest pursuant to international law. District Attorney Dick Gammick said that no Serbian consulate office could be contacted when Nika was arrested because Serbia was not a country at the time. Katherine Bekesi, an investigator for prisoner human rights advocacy group Reprieve [advocacy website] called for a new trial [press release]:

If the Serbian consulate had been informed of Mr. Nika's arrest, it would have provided crucial assistance, including translation, legal advice and key mitigating evidence, which could have saved Mr. Nika's life. The state of Nevada must face up to its deplorable failings in this case and order a new trial.
The Nevada Supreme Court [official website] denied [opinion, PDF] Nika's request to overturn his conviction in December 2008, with the dissent suggesting jurors did not have enough information to evaluate Nika's guilt and the majority holding that a consulate office could have done little to change the guilty verdict.

Just last month, the government of Mexico pleaded [press release] with the US to block the execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia [advocacy website] on similar grounds. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] criticized the execution [JURIST report], saying 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]. Officials from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] had 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, 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. Texas has already executed two Mexican nationals [JURIST report] who were denied consular access.

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