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“US in breach of international law after execution of Leal García in Texas ” – UN human rights chief

MEXICO CITY (8 July 2011) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, deeply regrets the execution in the United States of Mexican national Humberto Leal García, after a last minute decision by the US Supreme Court denying a stay of execution. Mr. Leal García was sentenced to death for murder in Texas in February 1998.

“The execution of Mr. Leal García places the US in breach of international law,” said Pillay, who is currently on official mission in Mexico. “What the State of Texas has done in this case is imputable in law to the US and engages the United States' international responsibility. I am very disappointed that neither the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles nor the Governor took steps open to them to prevent this breach of the US obligations under international law from occurring."

In addition to the normal UN position of opposing the death penalty as a matter of policy, this case raises particular legal concerns, as Mr. Leal García was not granted consular access, which – as a foreign national – was his right under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The lack of consular assistance raises concerns about whether or not his right to a fair trial, guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and binding on the United States, was fully upheld.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a ruling stating that the United States must review and reconsider the cases of 51 Mexican nationals sentenced to death – including the case of Mr Leal García – as they had not received consular services. This never took place.

“Today’s execution will undermine the role of the International Court of Justice, and its ramifications are likely to spread far beyond Texas,” Pilay said, noting that she had sent two letters on this issue to the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. "It is also the responsibility of all federal countries ensure that all individual states respect the international obligations assumed by the country as a whole."

The US Federal Government had filed a brief to the Supreme Court in support of Leal García's pending application for a stay of execution. The brief highlighted the foreign affairs implications of such an execution, which is in breach of international obligations acknowledged to be binding. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 majority, rejected the application, noting that in the years since the ICJ judgment, Congress had failed to pass legislation providing for a remedy to such violations of the Vienna Convention. "The federal Congress must also assume its responsibilities and act to remedy the gap in US law that this case has again sadly revealed in order to prevent its recurrence in the future."

ENDS

Learn more about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HighCommissioner.aspx

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