NEW VOICES: Military and Diplomatic Leaders Urge Reprieve for Foreign National Facing Texas Execution
On June 7, a clemency petition was filed with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles requesting a halt to the July-7 execution of Humberto Leal, a Mexican citizen who was not advised of his consular rights upon arrest for a murder in San Antonio in 1994. The petition was accompanied by letters from former U.S. diplomats, retired military leaders, former prosecutors and judges, and assocations of Americans living abroad calling for a stay of execution until Congress can pass legislation to guarantee proper notification in such cases. The U.S. is a party to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations that requires officials to inform foreign nationals of their right to contact their consulate when arrested. The treaty is designed to protect both U.S. citizens abroad and citizens of other countries in the U.S. Among the signers of the letter from retired military officers were Rear Admiral Don Guter, USN, Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, USN, and Brigadier General James P. Cullen, USA. They wrote: "International consular notification and access obligations are essential to ensuring humane, non-discriminatory treatment for both non-citizens in U.S. custody and U.S. citizens in the custody of foreign governments. As retired military leaders, we understand that the preservation of consular access protections is especially important for U.S. military personnel, who when serving our country overseas are at greater risk of being arrested by a foreign government."
In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled on behalf of Mexican citizens on U.S. death rows that the U.S. was in violation of the Vienna Convention and held that hearings should be held to review the fairness of the convictinos and sentences of the Mexican nationals. Texas has refused to conduct such hearings, despite an order from then-President George W. Bush to do so. The U.S. Supreme Court held that Congress needs to pass implementing legislation regarding the enforcement of the Vienna Convention in order to bind Texas to conduct hearings. It is expected that such legislation will be introduced soon. Leal's attorneys point to the poor representation that he received at trial as evidence of the importance of assistance from the Mexican consulate.
The U.S. diplomats, including former U.S. Representative to the U.N. Thomas Pickering, wrote: "Clearly, the safety and well-being of Americans abroad is endangered by the United States maintaining the double standard of protesting denials of consular notification and access to its own citizens while simultaneously failing to comply with its obligation to remedy identical violations."
(P. Malof, "Bipartisan Agreement: TX Execution Threatens Safety of Americans Abroad," Public News Service, June 7, 2011). Letter of former military leaders; letter of former U.S. diplomats. See www.HumbertoLeal.org for more information. See also Foreign Nationals.