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US execution of Mexican national violates international law - UN rights chief

8 July 2011 – The United Nations human rights chief said today she deeply regrets the execution in the United States of Mexican national Humberto Leal García, stating that it is a breach of Washington’s obligations under international law.

Mr. Leal García was sentenced to death for murder in the state of Texas in February 1998. He was executed yesterday after a last minute decision by the US Supreme Court denying a stay of execution.

“The execution of Mr. Leal García places the US in breach of international law,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who is currently on official mission in Mexico.

“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,” she stated.

A news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) notes that, 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 international law.

“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,” the Office stated.

OHCHR adds that in 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a ruling stating that the US 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,” Ms. Pillay 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,” she added.

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