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UN: Texas execution broke international law

A top United Nations' rights official said the United States was in breach of international law over the execution of a 38-year-old Humberto Garcia Leal.
/ Source: news services

A top United Nations' rights official said the United States was in breach of international law over the execution of a 38-year-old Mexican citizen in Texas.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday the Texas execution of Humberto Garcia Leal "raises particular legal concerns," including whether he had access to consular services and a fair trial.

Pillay also cited a 2004 International Court of Justice ruling saying the U.S. must review and reconsider the cases of 51 Mexican nationals sentenced to death, including Leal's — but, she said, that never happened.

Texas executed Leal Thursday over objections from President Barack Obama's administration that the action would violate international treaty obligations and put U.S. citizens abroad at risk.

Leal was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms at a prison in Huntsville, Texas.

Leal was sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda, whose brutalized nude body was found hours after he left a San Antonio street party with her. She was bludgeoned with a piece of 30- to 40-pound chunk of asphalt.

In a last statement, Leal apologized to the victim's family and asked for their forgiveness.

"I truly am sorry. That is all. Let's get this show on the road," Leal said. "One more thing: Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico."

Leal was just a toddler when he and his family moved to the U.S. from Monterrey, Mexico, but his citizenship became a key element of his lawyers' efforts to win a stay. They said police never told him following his arrest that he could seek legal assistance from the Mexican government under an international treaty.

Capital punishment in Mexico was officially abolished in 2005, having not been used in civil cases since 1937, and in military cases since 1961.

'Irreparable breach'
The Obama administration warned that executing Leal would violate the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and leave U.S. citizens traveling abroad at higher risk of arrest without cause or denial of diplomatic representation.

Image: Humberto Leal.
This undated handout photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Humberto Leal. State lawyers have told the U.S. Supreme Court that appeals to halt this week's scheduled execution of the Mexican national for the 1994 rape-slaying of a 16-year-old San Antonio girl are without merit. Leal faces lethal injection Thursday in Huntsville,Texas. (AP Photo/Texas Department of Criminal Justice)Texas Department of Criminal Jus

Leal's lawyers said Texas authorities did not inform him of his right to consult with Mexican consular authorities and violated the Vienna Convention, which guarantees foreign detainees the right to consult with representatives of their governments when they are arrested.

In legal briefs filed before the Supreme Court, the U.S. government had warned that the execution would create an "irreparable breach" of international law, and Mexico's government said it would "seriously jeopardize" cross-border cooperation on joint ventures and extraditions.

Mexico strongly condemned the execution, lodged an official protest with the U.S. State Department and sent letters to Texas Governor Rick Perry "underscoring the importance of fulfilling the international obligations," according to a press release from the Mexican Foreign Ministry.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.