UN Intervening in Texas Death Penalty Case

On July 7, Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr is scheduled to die.  He was convicted in a Texas court in 1994 of rape and murder–a capital offense for which he was sentenced to death. But this case is different from other Texas death penalty cases for the fact that Leal is a Mexican citizen. When he was arrested, he was denied the right under international law to contact the Mexican consulate.

In 2004, Mexico sued the United States at the International Court of Justice for denying one of its citizens the his right under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The ICJ ruled in favor of Mexico–and ordered the United States to reconsider the case. Even President Bush sent a letter to Texan authorities saying that Texas should review the case. Indeed, President Bush’s former top legal adviser at the State Department is outspoken on this:

“If we do not comply with our obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the U.N. Charter,” said John B. Bellinger III, who was the State Department’s top lawyer in the administration of President George W. Bush, “we put at risk Americans, including Texans, who travel and may be arrested overseas. It is surprising that Texas does not recognize the risks it may be creating for its own citizens.”

Today, the UN system kicked into gear to urge the state of Texas to stay Mr. Leal’s execution. The top UN human rights official Navi Pillay sent a letter to Texas governor asking him to stay the execution.

“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,” [UNHCHR spokesperson] 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.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry seems intent to ignore these entreaties. He is an undeclared candidate for the Republican nomination for President. Needless to say, sparing the life of a convicted rapist and murderer in order to comply with international law is probably not something Governor Perry is willing to contemplate. I home I am wrong, though.