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Copyright (c) 2012 The American Society of International Law
American Journal of International Law

EDITORIAL COMMENT: CORRECTING AMERICA'S CONTINUING FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE AVENA JUDGMENT

July, 2012

American Journal of International Law

106 A.J.I.L. 572

Author

By Steve Charnovitz

Excerpt

One year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused a request by the Obama administration to stay the lethal injection by Texas of a convicted prisoner even though that execution would violate a U.S. treaty obligation. 2 Instead, the Supreme Court deferred to contravening Texas state law and policy that denied the prisoner, Humberto Leal García, a hearing on the merits as to whether the government of Texas's failure to advise Leal of his right to meet with a consular representative prejudiced his criminal convictions in Texas courts. The State of Texas, which opposed the stay, carried out the execution hours after the Supreme Court stood down.

Texas's execution of Leal was promptly criticized by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, who declared: "The execution of Mr. Leal Garcia places the US in breach of international law." 3 The "breach of international law" refers to the fact that in 2003, Mexico lodged the Avena case against the United States at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) about the failure of American law enforcement officials to comply with U.S. obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR). 4 In March 2004, the ICJ held that the United States had breached its VCCR obligations. As a remedy, the ICJ directed the United States "to provide, by means of its own choosing, review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences of the Mexican nationals" (on death row) who were the subject of the case. 5

Nevertheless, neither ...
 
 
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