Today’s Houston Chronicle features an editorial that calls for a stay of execution for Humberto Leal, in light of legislation pending in Congress that would allow federal courts to review death penalty cases involving foreign nationals who were denied the right to contact their consular offices (“Keeping our word: Scheduled Texas execution violates treaty and endangers Americans abroad,” June 23, 2011). Here’s a long excerpt:
Americans traveling abroad are protected, whether they are aware of it or not, by a treaty called the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, ratified by about 170 countries, which guarantees them access to U.S. consular assistance if they are detained or arrested in a foreign country. In 2010, more than 6,600 Americans were arrested abroad, and more than 3,000 were incarcerated. Many of them benefited from the protections of this treaty.
But unfortunately, the U.S. has repeatedly failed to offer those same protections to foreigners on U.S. soil. The most egregious of these violations is the denial of consular assistance to foreign nationals convicted and sentenced to death. (Currently, about 100 foreign nationals are on U.S. death rows.) And in a particularly urgent case, one of those individuals whose rights were violated, a Mexican national named Humberto Leal Garcia, is scheduled to be executed on July 7 in Huntsville.
Because a bill has been introduced to bring the U.S. into compliance with the treaty, Leal’s attorneys have filed a federal petition and a motion for a stay of execution so that Leal will be alive and eligible for the remedies of this legislation when it becomes law.
There are compelling reasons why these petitions should be granted. Chief among them is the fact that this pending legislation will allow for review of cases like Leal’s, said his attorney Sandra Babcock, “where lack of consular assistance may well have made the difference between life and death. That’s why the consular access really matters.” Mexico provides top-flight legal assistance to its nationals under such circumstances.
If you haven’t done so already, please sign the petition in support of clemency for Humberto Leal: