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Mexican's TX Execution Broke Intl. Law: UN Says

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 12, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

On the heels of Texas' decision to execute Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia late last week, the United Nations is speaking out, claiming that the United States violated international law.

Accused of raping and killing a 16-year-old girl in 1994, Leal Garcia was denied access to the Mexican Embassy prior to his conviction. Despite this, the Supreme Court refused to stay his execution.

Was this really illegal?

Under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, treaty signatories must provide detained or arrested foreign nationals with access to their embassy or consulate.

Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides that treaties only become binding on the U.S., the states, and the courts if they are approved by 2/3 of the Senate and signed by the President.

Though both Congress and the President ratified the treaty, as the Supreme Court pointed out in 2008, and again last week, the Vienna Convention is still technically not the law of the land.

In order for a treaty to become law within the United States, Congress must pass implementing legislation. That is, the Vienna Convention's right to consular access cannot be enforced until Congress passes a law creating that right as a matter of U.S. law.

This has never occurred, meaning that, at the very least, the execution of Humberto Leal Garcia did not violate domestic law.

Whether it was illegal under international law is a bit trickier.

As far as the U.N. is concerned, by ratifying the treaty, the U.S. must provide consular access.

Despite this, there is little the U.N. can do to the United States over the execution of Humberto Leal Garcia, as the Supreme Court and federal government have insisted for years that the country can choose whether to submit to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

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