Today Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced federal legislation that aims to bring the United States into compliance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, a key treaty that provides citizens who are detained abroad with access to their consulates. This legislation has implications for the case of Humberto Leal, a Mexican national who was not provided access to consular officials upon his arrest for capital murder in San Antonio in 1994. Leal faces a July 7 execution date. He is one of 13 Mexican nationals on death row in Texas (among more than 50 nationwide).
Here is an excerpt from Senator Leahy’s press release:
The Leahy-authored Consular Notification Compliance Act will give jurisdiction to federal courts to review the cases of foreign nationals currently on death row in the United States who did not receive consular access as required by the VCCR. It includes those individuals covered by a 2004 decision by the International Court of Justice, which held that the U.S. must review the convictions and death sentences of more than 50 Mexican nationals who had not been notified of their right to consular access. The legislation would also clarify for future cases that courts must ensure that all foreign nationals charged with a capital offense are informed of their right to contact their consulate. More than 100 foreign nationals from more than 30 countries are currently on death row in the United States.
“Each year, thousands of Americans are detained abroad while they study, travel, work, and serve in the military. From the moment they are detained, their safety and well-being depends on the ability of United States consular officials to meet with them, monitor their treatment, help them obtain legal assistance, and connect them to family back home,” said Leahy.
“That access is protected by the consular notification provisions of the VCCR, but it only functions effectively if every country meets its obligations under the treaty – including the United States. The Consular Notification Compliance Act will bring the United States one step closer to compliance with the convention.”