July 6, 2011
Defends Consular Notification Rights per International Law
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
In connection with the case
of Mexican citizen Humberto Leal, whose execution in Texas is scheduled for Thursday, July 7, the Foreign Ministry reports
that since January 2003 it has taken a wide range of actions to enforce compliance with the right to consular notification
established by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, of which both Mexico and the United States are parties.
1. On January 9, 2003, Mexico
filed a lawsuit against the United States with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the situation of a group
of Mexican citizens facing the death penalty who had not been informed of their right to consular notification at the time
of their arrest (Avena and Other Mexican Nationals"). The fundamental difference was not about the death penalty, but
the right of every individual, based on the Vienna Convention, to have the support of their home state when facing criminal
2. On March 31, 2004, the ICJ
ruled in favor of Mexico, recognizing that U.S. officials never told 51 Mexican citizens of their right to tell the Mexican
consulate about their arrest. It ordered the U.S. to review and reconsider the cases in the courts.
3. On February 28, 2005, via
a memorandum to the U.S. Attorney General, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. state courts to adhere to the decision.
However, on March 25, 2008, in the "Medellin v. Texas case," the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that neither President Bush’s
memo nor the decision of the ICJ were binding in the absence of federal legislation to that effect.
4. Based on the Supreme Court
ruling, on June 5, 2008 Mexico asked the ICJ for an interpretation of the meaning and scope of the Avena case decision, and
for provisional measures, which were granted, to prevent the Mexicans included in the case from being executed while the ICJ
was preparing the interpretation. On July 24, 2008, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a report
recommending the review and reconsideration of the death sentences and establishing protective measures.
5. Despite these efforts, one
of the Mexican citizens included in the Avena case, Jose Ernesto Medellin Rojas, was executed in Texas on August 5, 2008. The
government of Mexico sent a note in protest to the State Department for this violation of international law.
6. On January 19, 2009, the
ICJ ruled that the U.S. violated the provisional measures by failing to take all necessary actions to prevent the execution
of Mr. Medellín and it reiterated the continuing obligation to comply with the Avena decision.
7. On August 7, 2009, the Commission
reiterated the recommendation to review and reconsider the sentences against Humberto Leal and Ruben Ramirez. It maintained
its precautionary measures.
8. Based on the ICJ decision
and the recommendation of the IACHR, as well as the decision in the Medellin v. Texas case, the Mexican government intensified
its dialogue with those involved in this process, in the executive and the legislative branches of the U.S. government, as
well as with civil society.
9. On June 10, Mr. Leal’s
defense asked the IACHR to reaffirm the July 2008 precautionary measures that were ratified in August 2009. On July 1,
the IACHR sent a letter to the United States urging a stay of execution pending the establishment of a mechanism to review
10. On June 14, 2011, Senator
Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judicial Affairs, introduced a bill seeking compliance with the Avena ruling,
giving jurisdiction to federal courts to review the cases of individuals sentenced to death who were not informed of their
right to consular notification. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder expressed their support
for this proposal in a letter from both of them to the U.S. Senate.
11. On June 16, 2011, Mr. Leal’s
defense sought a writ of (habeas corpus) in the U.S. District Court in San Antonio. The petition was dismissed. On
June 27, he appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The petition was also denied.
12. On June 28, the defense
filed a petition for review (certiorari) and postponement of the execution with the U.S. Supreme Court of the United States,
pending its decision. The Mexican government presented a "Friend of the Court" brief to support these legal measures.
13. At the same time, the Ambassador
of Mexico to the United States sent a letter to Secretary Clinton, reiterating the U.S.’ obligation to comply with the
Avena decision and asking for its intervention with the Texas authorities. He also lobbied the General Counsel of the Department
14. On July 1, the U.S. government
submitted a "Friend of the Court" brief in support of the request for a stay of execution based on the judicial review initiated
by the defense. The Mexican government welcomes this new attempt by the Obama administration to implement the ruling
of the ICJ.
15. Mr. Leal’s defense
requested the intervention of Texas Governor Rick Perry to temporarily suspend the execution and ask for a clemency hearing
of the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole. The Foreign Secretary and Ambassador of Mexico in the United States sent letters
in support of this request. The National Human Rights Commission, the governments of Brazil, Honduras, El Salvador and
Switzerland, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and non-governmental organizations sent letters in this
regard, as well.
16. The Mexican government
will continue to take all reasonable steps within its power to ensure compliance with the Avena judgment in defense of the
right to consular notification, an essential tool for defending the rights and interests of Mexicans abroad.
Press Release: Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (SRE), Jul. 6, 2011, Mexico, D.F.; translation SRE