Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An Execution in Texas

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has appealed to the Governor of Texas to commute the death sentence of a Mexican national scheduled to be executed for murder.

The plea from Navi Pillay was also supported by two UN rights experts who have urged the US Government to stop the execution for the same reason: the convicted murderer was not granted access to a Mexican consular official at the time of his arrest.

Ms. Pillay wrote directly to Texas Governor Rick Perry asking him to order a life sentence for Humberto Leal Garcia, who was condemned to death for the 1994 murder of a 16-year-old girl, according to Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for OHCHR.

“Over and above the normal UN position opposing the death penalty, this case raises particular concerns, as Mr. Leal Garcia was not granted consular access, which, as a foreign national, is his right under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” Mr. Colville said.

“The lack of consular assistance and advice raises concerns about whether or not Mr. Leal Garcia’s right to a fair trial was fully upheld,” he said.

“We understand that Mr. Leal Garcia is due to be executed next Thursday, 7 July, but that the Governor of Texas has the power to commute the sentence to life imprisonment. The High Commissioner has written to him directly requesting him to do so.”

The spokesperson said that the case also “raises questions” regarding compliance with a 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that the US breached its obligations under an international convention to 51 Mexicans on death row in US jails when it did not inform them of their right to contact their consular representatives “without delay” after their arrests.

In that judgment the ICJ ruled that, as a remedy for the violations of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the US must provide “review and reconsideration” of Mr. Leal Garcia’s conviction and sentence, Mr. Colville said.

Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez, called on the US Government to cancel the execution. 

“If the scheduled execution of Mr. Leal García goes ahead, the United States Government will have implemented a death penalty after a trial that did not comply with due process rights,” Mr. Heyns said. “This will be tantamount to an arbitrary deprivation of life.”

“Conditions in death row during those 17 years are such that they amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment according to well-established standards in international law,” Mr. Méndez said.

Mr. Heyns and Mr. Méndez are independent, non-paid specialist reporting to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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