U.N. asks Texas to commute Mexican's death sentence

GENEVA Fri Jul 1, 2011 3:02pm BST

GENEVA (Reuters) - The top U.N. human rights official urged the governor of Texas on Friday to call off the execution next week of a Mexican citizen convicted of murder who was not told of his right to diplomatic advice when arrested.

Humberto Leal Garcia was convicted of raping and killing a 16-year-old girl in Texas in February 1998 and his conviction was upheld the following year, a spokesman for United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.

"We understand that the execution of Mr. Leal Garcia is now set for Thursday, 7 July. The governor of Texas still has the power to commute the sentence to life imprisonment. The High Commissioner has written to him directly requesting him to do so," her spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing.

At the time of his arrest, Leal Garcia was not informed of his right under international law to have consular assistance from Mexican authorities which, as a foreign national, he is entitled to under the Vienna Convention, he said.

"The lack of consular assistance and advice raises concerns about whether or not Mr. Leal Garcia's right to a fair trial was fully upheld," Colville said.

The case also raised questions about U.S. compliance with a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice, he said.

The court ruled that as a remedy for violating the Vienna Convention, the United States must provide "review and reconsideration" of Leal Garcia's conviction and sentence, according to the U.N. spokesman.

Colville, asked about U.S. authorities failing to inform foreign nationals about their consular rights, replied: "It's a continuous problem. It is also a problem between the federal and state level in the United States.

"I think that at the federal level there is recognition that the problem exists, but at the state level tends to be where the difficulty lies."

Dozens of former U.S. law enforcement officials and ex-diplomats appealed last month for the execution of Leal, now 38, to be blocked arguing that it would put Americans at risk in prosecutions abroad.

Mexico's ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, has also asked that the execution be stopped.

A spokeswoman for Texas Governor Rick Perry told Reuters last month that "the governor would have to receive a favorable recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider the clemency requested."

(Editing by Robert Woodward)

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