By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON, United States – Politicians, retired military figures, and lawyers have come together to protest the upcoming execution of Mexican citizen Humberto Leal Garcia in Texas. Despite possible violations of Garcia’s rights under the Vienna Convention, Texas Governor Rick Perry is adamantly pushing forward. Some argue that if Texas carries out this execution it will put Americans travelling abroad in serious danger.
In 1994, prosecutors found Leal guilty of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl in San Antonio, Texas and sentenced him to the death penalty shortly thereafter. According to the New York Times, the United States never informed Mexican authorities of his arrest and denied him access to Mexican consular officials in direct contravention of the Vienna Convention. Rather, Texas assigned unprepared and incompetent court-appointed lawyers to Leal’s case.
President Obama and former-President George W. Bush have both denounced Leal’s execution, suggesting that Texas is violating international law provisions.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) ruled that the United States must “review and reconsider” Leal’s case, along with the cases of multiple other Mexican inmates on death row in the U.S. Texas refused to comply with the ICJ ruling, arguing that international law is not binding. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. was obligated to comply with the judgment through Congressional action; presidential action alone was not enough.
Legislation regarding the matter was submitted in the Senate this month, but it may not pass in time to save Leal from his sentence. Leal’s current lawyer, Sandra Babcock, spoke with the New York Times to explain the situation. “He has a due process right to remain alive while Congress has a meaningful opportunity to consider and pass this legislation.”
The Guardian reports that top officials are worried about potential backlash from non-compliance. They argue that failure to observe these international laws will put American nationals in serious danger if arrested abroad.
John Bellinger, attorney and former legal adviser at the State Department for the Bush administration agrees. “It’s not a favor that we do for foreigners who travel in the United States. The United States is a party to this treaty because it protects Americans when we travel abroad.”
Victor Uribe, head of the legal section at the Mexican Embassy, told NPR that they have appealed to Governor Perry himself because as of now, he is the only one who can halt the execution; neither the President nor the ICJ hold any power at this point.
Governor Perry has yet to budge. According to NPR, his staff has previously stated, “It is important to remember that these individuals are on death row for killing our citizens.” Texas has shown no signs of waiver as Leal’s execution edges ever closer.
For more information, please visit:
The New York Times — Texas Is Pressed to Spare Mexican Citizen on Death Row — 27 June 2011
NPR — Planned Execution Puts Mexico, Texas At Odds — 15 June 2011
The Guardian — US Politicians and Lawyers Protest Against Death Penalty for Mexican Man — 7 June 2011
Fox News Latino — Mexican Rights Body Seeks Clemency for Man on Texas Death Row — 6 June 2011