Texas may be about to carry out an execution despite being told in no uncertain terms that it would violate international law. Later tonight, the state is due to execute a Mexican man convicted of a 1994 murder--even though when he was arrested, police didn't tell him that he had the right to contact diplomats from his own country.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and former Gov. Mark W. White Jr. have urged Gov. Rick Perry and the state attorney general, Greg Abbott, to stop the execution of the man, Edgar Arias Tamayo, 46, to allow a court to review how the state’s violation affected Mr. Tamayo’s trial and death sentence. The execution has been set for Wednesday.No one disputes that Tamayo is guilty of killing Gaddis. However, Tamayo is one of 51 Mexican nationals on death row across this country whom the World Court suspects had their Vienna Convention rights violated. In 2004, the World Court ordered the United States to review those convictions. In response, Bush 43 ordered Texas to review all convictions of those Mexicans on its death row covered by the order. But in 2008, the Supreme Court said that the president couldn't make such a move on his own authority. Rather, Congress had to pass a law mandating such reviews--but unfortunately, Congress has yet to act.
“This has nothing to do with the behavior and the consequences that that behavior had,” Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Eduardo Medina Mora, said in an interview. “A court has to examine the consequences of that violation, a violation that has been conceded by both the United States and the State of Texas.”
Mr. Tamayo was sentenced to death for shooting and killing a Houston police officer in January 1994. The officer, Guy P. Gaddis, had arrested Mr. Tamayo after a robbery and was taking him to jail in his patrol car when Mr. Tamayo pulled out a pistol and shot him three times in the back of the head. While he was in custody, the authorities failed to notify Mr. Tamayo of his right to contact the Mexican Consulate, an omission that violated the international treaty known as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
How serious is this? The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has also applied pressure, saying that the execution would be "a serious and irreparable violation" of American international obligations. Kerry has gone as far as to personally appeal to Abbott, telling him that if the execution is carried out it could have serious consequences for how Americans are treated abroad.
Perry and Abbott take the line that Texas isn't directly covered by the World Court order. In fact, Texas has executed two other people covered by it without a review. After a federal appeals court turned down Tamayo's appeal, his lawyers are appealing to the Supreme Court. Hopefully the Supremes can act on this soon.