Amnesty International Calls on Texas to Halt Humberto Leal Execution; at Stake Is 'the Legitimacy of Texas' Legal System,' Says Human Rights Organization

Press Release
June 24, 2011

Amnesty International Calls on Texas to Halt Humberto Leal Execution; at Stake Is 'the Legitimacy of Texas' Legal System,' Says Human Rights Organization

Contact:  Wende Gozan Brown at 212-633-4247, wgozan@aiusa.org.

(Washington, DC) -- Amnesty International has mobilized its worldwide membership to call on Texas Governor Rick Perry to grant clemency for Texas death row inmate Humberto Leal Garcia.  The human rights organization maintains that carrying out his execution, currently scheduled for July 7, would violate the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), as Leal was never informed post-arrest of his right to seek consular assistance, and was charged, tried and sentenced to death without being told of his rights under international law (http://bit.ly/mNQ87C).

"While, the crime for which Humberto Leal was sentenced is indeed serious, there are also serious concerns about the disregard for international law that marked Mr. Leal's arrest and sentencing," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) in a letter to Gov. Perry.   "Executing Humberto Leal now would be a slap in the face of the international community and would display contempt for U.S. treaty obligations...At stake are the legitimacy of Texas' legal system and the credibility of our government's commitment to international institutions and law."

In 2003 Mexico brought its first VCCR case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a case that resulted in an  ICJ' judgment that the United States was in breach of its VCCR responsibilities in the case of 51 Mexican nationals, including Humberto Leal, who was convicted of the murder of a 16-year-old girl in 1994. It has now been more than seven years since the ICJ handed down the decision, but the United States has yet to comply with the Avena judgment and the ICJ's demand that the United States provide judicial "review and reconsideration" of the convictions and sentences of the 51 men.

In the 2008 case of Medellín v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that the Avena decision "constitutes an international law obligation on the part of the United States." The Court also unanimously agreed that the reasons for complying with the ICJ judgment were "plainly compelling," since its domestic enforcement would uphold "United States interests in ensuring the reciprocal observance of the Vienna Convention, protecting relations with foreign governments, and demonstrating commitment to the role of international law."  

But the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the ICJ's decision "is not automatically binding domestic law" and that the authority for implementing it rests with Congress. Granting a reprieve will allow time for Congress to fix this glaring deficiency in the ability of the United States to honor the international agreements it has signed.