Officials Fight to Delay Mexican Man’s Execution in Texas

Officials Fight to Delay Mexican Man’s Execution in Texas

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.

Texas Governor Rick Perry plans to proceed with the execution despite protests from the President and other officials. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)
Texas Governor Rick Perry plans to proceed with the execution. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

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

deadly standoff continues at Venezuelan Prison

By Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – For the past two weeks, the Venezuelan National Guard has been in a standoff with the inmates of the Rodeo II prison.  Inmates gained control of the prison back on June 12 during an armed conflict between two prisoner gangs, vying for control of the prison.  The fighting between the rival gangs killed at least 29 and injured many others.

Soldiers oversee inmates of El Rodeo during an attempt to regain control.  (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)
Soldiers oversee inmates of El Rodeo during an attempt to regain control. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

Authorities state that an earlier raid of the Rodeo I prison resulted in the seizure of a number of weapons, drugs and cell phones.  During this raid two members of the police force and one inmate were killed.  The Rodeo II unit remains under siege.

Roughly 4,000 members of the National Guard were stationed at the Rodeo prison in Guatire, 50 kilometers east of Caracas.  Worried family members of prisoners have also gathered, some of them throwing stones at the soldiers.  In response, soldiers have fired tear gas at the crowd to try and disperse them.  Inside Rodeo II, there remain up to 1,200 inmates, with only 50 of them being a part of the resistance. 

The government announced that one member of the National Guard was killed and 19 others injured.  They do not know if any casualties have been suffered by the inmates.  However, a recently posted YouTube video, allegedly from within the prison, shows two white freezers being opened to reveal a dead body in each.  The narrator is heard saying “two of the compatriots who have died in the fight.”  As the video comes to an end, the sound of gunfire can be heard in the background.

An inmate, one of the 36 prisoners that the National Guard was able to rescue on Monday night, claims that the soldiers want to massacre everyone inside the prison.  He said that the soldiers killed several prisoners during the rescue mission. 

Text messages sent from inside the prison are pleas for the government to spare the lives of those not involved in the resistance.  Other messages describe the soldiers opening fire on prisoners who had come out into the courtyard, waving a white flag above their heads as a sign of surrender.       

The conditions of Venezuelan prisons have been a concern for human rights groups since 2008.  “In Venezuela, prisoners are often held in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions and violence is endemic,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Americas Division.  At the El Rodeo prison roughly 3,600 prisoners were imprisoned but the facilities were only built to contain 750 people.

Marengo urges the Venezuelan government to “promptly launch an independent investigation into what went wrong at El Rodeo, establishing responsibility for the high level of weapons in the prison, and ensure that similar incidents are not repeated in the future.”

Director of El Rodeo II, Luis Rafael Aranguren and Rubén José González Heredia, Vice-director of El Rodeo I have been arrested on allegations of illegally facilitating the movement of drugs and arms into the prison and corruption charges.

For more information, please see;

The Guardian – Venezuelan Prison Siege: El Rodeo Directors Arrested – 28 June 2011

Amnesty International – Deadly Clashes Highlight Need for Urgent Prison Reform in Venezuela – 22 June 2011

 CNN – Standoff is Latest in Venezuelan Prisons’ History of Problems – 21 June 2011

 The Guardian – Venezuelan Government Troops Continue Assault on Riot-Torn Prison – 21 June 2011

 International Business Times – Stand-Off Continues in a Venezuelan Prison – 20 June 2011

 BBC News – Venezuelan Forces Storm Prison ‘to Protect Lives’ – 17 June 2011

UPDATE – Iran in the News

Compiled by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
June 29, 2011

A History of United Nations Special Representatives and Rapporteurs in Iran

IHRDC released this chart that collects and documents UN Special Representative and Rapporteur activity in Iran since 1980. To read the history and UN reports click here.

Witness Statement of Mohammad Shams

IHRDC published a witness statement by Mohammad Shams, a young political opposition supporter, describing his arrest, detention and torture after he participated in demonstrations protesting the June 2009 presidential elections results. Read his witness statement here.

Persian Translation of the Rome Statute Continued

IHRDC posted its Persian translation of Parts 4, 5 and 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The translation is available here.

Surviving Rape in Iran’s Prisons

IHRDC published this report that documents the ordeals of five former prisoners – two women and three men – who were raped, and witnessed and were threatened with rape while imprisoned in Iranian prisons. Read it here.

Civilians Suspects Arrested by Military in Uganda

By Reta Raymond
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KAMPALA, Uganda – In the wake of the much publicized death of Col. Edison Muzoora, several Forum for Democratic Change (“FDC”) party officials have been arrested, some of them by the Ugandan military, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (“UPDF”). Seven suspects have been detained for nearly two weeks, and on 27 June five were charged with treason, a civil offense under Section 23 of the Ugandan Penal Code Act.  FDC Secretary of Defence and Security Maj. (rtd) John Kazoora believes that “the government is becoming paranoid and they want to silence the opposition using these arrests. .. If [the detainees] have a case to answer [for] they should be produced in court.”

Mr. Mukaira is recovering at Mulago Hospital in Kampala after being arrested by the UPDF. (Photo courtesy of Daily Monitor)
Mukaira is recovering at Mulago Hospital. (Photo courtesy of Daily Monitor)

FDC Bushenyi District Chairperson William Mukaira, 83 was arrested on 19 June by the UPDF, but has not yet been charged. Mukaira was last reported to be at Mulago Hospital in Kampala where he is recovering from undisclosed health deterioration after being detained at an UPDF military detention facility.

Dr. Aggrey Byamaka, a pharmacist and FDC officer from Mbarara Municipality, was also arrested by the UPDF on 16 June, and was taken to the Second Division Army Barracks in Mbarara.  Byamaka’s wife, Doreen, asked the UPDF forces why he was arrested and where they were taking him. The officers told her to follow them in her car but she was turned away at the UPDF headquarters gate. Nine days later, Mrs. Byamaka still had not been able to find her husband. She told reporters, “I can’t rest, I can’t settle. Wherever he is rumored to be detained, I try to connect there, but I have not succeeded. We don’t know if he is dead or alive.”

Byamaka has not been charged yet, despite a court order issued Friday for the government to produce him on Monday, 27 June with the other suspects. Upon failing to produce Byamaka, State Attorney Susan Odongo reported to the court that “the Director of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence has filed a return this morning stating that the applicant is in the custody of the police. We have been trying to receive instructions from the IGP and the director CID, but they were engaged in a meeting.”

Col. Muzoora deserted the UPDF in 2003, and fled to Rwanda where he served as an operations and field commander of the rebel group the People’s Redemption Army. On 27 May Muzoora’s body was left outside his Bushenyi home in Uganda, wrapped in white sheets, having been preserved for several weeks. “Our preliminary investigations reveal that Col Muzoora sneaked into Uganda on May 5, 2011 from a neigbouring country… After he entered the country, he went directly to the home of William Mukaira in Bushenyi,” stated Internal affairs minister, Hilary Onek. The prosecution believes that those charged were conspiring with Muzoora, among others to overthrow the government with a force of arms.

Daily Monitor – State slaps treason case on six suspects28 June, 2011.

Daily Monitor Muzoora’s death puts two on the spot – 25 June, 2011.

All AfricaUganda: Army, police deny they have Byamaka – 22 June, 2011.

The ObserverGovernment explains Col. Muzoora’s death – 22 June, 2011.

Daily Monitor Tension as FDC officials are arrested by military – 19 June, 2011.

Recent events indicate advancements in women’s rights

By Greg Hall
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Two recent newsworthy events highlight the international efforts being made to further women’s rights and protect women from inequality and discrimination. First, Sunday marked the United Nations’ thirtieth year celebration of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, an annual day dedicated to paying respect to worldwide victims of torture. This week also marked one year since the opening of the Swedish school Egalia, a preschool aimed at promoting gender neutrality by eliminating common stereotypes.

Children play in the garden of Egalia (Photo courtesy of NY Times).
Children play in the garden of Egalia, a progressive Swedish preschool. (Photo courtesy of New York Times).

The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture celebrated its thirtieth anniversary on Sunday. Last year, at Denmark’s request, the UN designated June 26 as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.  Torture against women in particular has been an important focus.  Certain forms of gender-specific violence perpetrated by state actors, as well as by private individuals or organizations, amount to torture, and it is now recognized that gender-specific violence falls within the definition of torture in the Convention against Torture.

One country has promoted women’s rights for decades.  A preschool in Sweden, Egalia, takes human rights and equality to a new level.  The school proclaims to be totally gender neutral, and teaches gender equality by eliminating common socialization that occurs in ordinary schools.  For example, the school staff refers to the children as friends instead of boys and girls.  The colors of the toys are also gender neutral.  Even the dolls are anatomically correct. The school refers to a person whose gender is not known as a “hen” instead of a him or her. School officials believe that such behavior will help eradicate stereotypes that lead to future gender inequality.

Critics of the school’s program are wary. Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said he’s not aware of any other school like Egalia, and he questioned its mission.

“The kind of things that boys like to do – run around and turn sticks into swords – will soon be disapproved of,” he said. “So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness.”  Despite opinions such as Belsky’s, the school boasts a long waiting list for admission.

Such events as the thirtieth anniversary of the International Day in support of torture victims and the one-year anniversary of the opening of the innovative Egalia highlight a long road ahead for women’s rights. But, at the least, it is clear that efforts are being made to reduce discrimination and ill treatment based on gender.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Education Associates – International Day of Support of Victims of Torture – 26 June 2011

New York Times – No ‘him’ of ‘her’; Preschool Fights Gender Bias – 26 June 2011

UN – International Day of Support of Victims of Torture – 26 June 2011