USA: Texas must grant immediate reprieve to Mexican national facing execution

The organisation noted the unprecedented international concern over the failure of Texas authorities to inform Suárez upon arrest in 1988 of his right to consular notification, as required under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

'Consular notification and access are both binding legal obligations and essential human rights safeguards which must be respected,' Amnesty International said, adding that 'at a minimum, Texas must remedy its flagrant breach of consular obligations by permitting thorough review and reconsideration of this deeply troubling case.'

Javier Suárez Medina was sentenced to death in 1989 for the killing of a Dallas police officer during an undercover drug operation. However, new mitigating evidence discovered with the recent assistance of Mexican consular authorities has cast serious doubts on the fairness of his trial and sentence. Mexican authorities also maintain that Texas police repeatedly provided false and misleading information to them regarding Suarez's nationality, thus preventing consular assistance until the trial had been concluded.

Under Texas law, either the Governor or the Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) may grant a reprieve to permit further consideration of the grounds for clemency in a death penalty case.

Texas has carried out 276 executions since 1982, yet the Texas BPP has only once recommended clemency on humanitarian grounds and almost never convenes clemency hearings. In at least two cases (Ricky McGinn and Johnny Garrett), Texas governors have exercised their independent authority by granting 30-day reprieves to allow further consideration of unresolved issues.

On 27 June 2001, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the United States had violated its binding obligations under the Vienna Convention by permitting the execution of two German nationals who had been deprived of consular notification and assistance. In its compulsory judgement, the ICJ held that the United States must provide 'review and reconsideration' of the convictions and sentences of foreign nationals whose consular rights were violated. Shortly after the ICJ decision, the Governor of Oklahoma granted a reprieve to Mexican national Gerardo Valdez, to permit further consideration of the case. On 1 May 2002, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set aside Valdez's death sentence, noting 'the significance and importance of the factual evidence discovered with the assistance of the Mexican Consulate.'

On 29 July 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States issued 'precautionary measures' in the Suárez case, calling on the United States to take all necessary steps to preserve his life while his human rights petition is under review by the Commission. On 8 August 2002, the UN Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights urged the United States to reprieve the execution of Javier Suárez Medina and to re-examine his case, based on the violation of his right to benefit from consular assistance and his right to a fair trial. Calls for commutation have also come from the President of the European Union, the American Bar Association and from a coalition of 13 nations which have joined with Mexico in supporting a final appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

The ongoing failure of United States authorities to remedy violations of consular rights has been a deep concern to Amnesty International for many years. 'Unless Texas authorities halt this execution immediately, the United States will once again lose its credibility as a nation which respects its binding human rights obligations,' the organisation said.

For additional information on consular rights violations in US death penalty cases, see 'A time for Action - Protecting the consular rights of foreign nationals facing the death penalty'

View latest press releases