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USA / Death row: UN experts urge Government to stop scheduled execution of a Mexican national

USA / Death row

01 July 2011

GENEVA (1 July 2011) – 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, today called on the United States Government to cancel the scheduled execution in the State of Texas of Humberto Leal García, a Mexican national, on 7 July 2011.

“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.”

Mr. Leal García was sentenced to death by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on 4 February 1998. His sentence was confirmed by the Texas Court of Appeals on 20 October 1999. “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.

At the time of his arrest, in 1994, Mr. Leal García was not informed of his right to seek consular assistance. His case was the subject of a hearing before the International Court of Justice which found that the United States Government had breached its obligations under article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.* The Court later ordered the Government not to execute Mr. Leal García pending review and reconsideration of the case**. In June 2011, in response to a United States Supreme Court decision, a bill was introduced in the United States Congress aimed at implementing the decision of the International Court of Justice. The State of Texas, nonetheless, intends to proceed with the execution.

“If Texas goes ahead with the execution, it will be a breach of the international obligation of the United States,” stressed the experts. “Such an act will serve to undermine the role of the International Court of Justice.”

(*) Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. U.S.A.), 2004 I.C.J. 12.
(**) Request for Interpretation of the Avena Judgment, 2009 I.C.J. 139


The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, is Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Co-director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa. He is a former dean of the Faculty of Law and a former Director of the Centre for Human Rights at the same university. He has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Learn more, log on to:

Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on 1 November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. He is currently a Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law, as well as an advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association. Learn more, log on to:

Check the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:

OHCHR Country Page – USA:

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