By Kirsten Bokenkamp
The State of Texas is about to put a man to death without ensuring his fundamental due process rights. Unless Governor Perry or the courts stay this execution set for July 7, the United States will be in blatant disregard of international treaty obligations. The fallout from the unlawful execution could jeopardize the safety of American nationals, including U.S. military personnel, abroad.
Humberto Leal Garcia, a Mexican national, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in 1995 without being informed of his right, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to seek assistance and legal counsel from the Mexican consulate. It wasn’t until he reached death row that he received the contact information for the Mexican Consulate – from a fellow inmate.
This violation of Leal’s consular right deprived him of his constitutional right to due process, which could have made the difference in both the guilt and/or sentencing phases of his trial. In 2004, the International Court of Justice, in the Avena and Other Mexican Nationals case, held that Leal was entitled to a hearing on the consular rights violation in his case. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have acknowledged that the U.S. is obligated to comply with the ICJ’s decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court said that the Avena decision constitutes an international obligation on behalf of the United States. On June 14th, Senator Leahy (VT-D) introduced legislation that would require implementation of the ICJ’s decision, and the bill has the support of the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State.
But, absent a federal law, it is up to the courts or Governor Perry to intervene and grant Leal a stay. Without this intervention, Leal will be put to death next Thursday without ever receiving the hearing he was legally entitled to. The U.S. is seen across the world as a leader in the fight for human rights. Violating international obligations undermines America’s leadership position and could embolden other countries to violate the consular rights of U.S. citizens arrested in their countries. The importance of ensuring the consular rights of Americans arrested abroad is clear after reading Euna Lee’s story, an American journalist who was captured in North Korea, and exercised her right to consular access. With more than 6600 Americans arrested abroad in 2010, it is in the best interest of the U.S. to hold up its side of the bargain.
Because of these concerns, a broad group of people, including former diplomats, retired military officials, and organizations representing Americans abroad are urging Governor Perry to grant a stay to Mr. Leal, and asking the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to ensure that the U.S. adheres to its obligation to inform foreign nationals arrested or detained of their consular rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Please stand with us: urge Governor Rick Perry to stay the execution of Humberto Leal, and ask your federal lawmakers to vote for this legislation.