Monday, June 13, 2011
Followers of consular notification law will recall the International Court of Justice's decision in Avena in which the ICJ found that the United States violated its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) by failing to provide approximately 50 Mexican nationals with consular notification prior to their trial and conviction. One of those Mexican nationals is Humberto Leal, who was convicted of murder in Texas and sentenced to death. His execution is scheduled for July 7, 2011. Attorneys for Mr. Leal are challenging the fairness and accuracy of the trial and have filed a clemency petition with the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole and Texas Governor Rick Perry requesting that Mr. Leal be given a hearing regarding whether the lack of consular assistance caused prejudice to his case. For more informaton or to sign the petition, click here.
Providing Mr. Leal with a hearing is clearly the proper course of action. The United States violated its treaty obligations by not providing Mr. Leal with timely consular notification in the first instance. The United States has admitted the violation and it has been confirmed by the ICJ in Avena. Providing a hearing does not mean that a guilty man will necessarily go free. It simply means that the United States will uphold its obligation to provide due process of law and, in particular, an opportunity for consular assistance, to a foreign national who is involved in criminal proceedings in the United States. Demonstrating respect for consular notification in the U.S. will help to ensure that other countries respect consular notification rights of U.S. citizens traveling abroad. Unfortunately, however, it is unlikely that Gov. Rick Perry will take this proper course of action. He is the same Governor that allowed the execution of Mr. Medellin, another of the Mexican nationals in the Avena case, to go forward despite requests for a hearing following that decision.