US executes Mexican despite diplomatic uproar

2014-01-23 07:57
Edgar Tamayo Arias. (Texas department of criminal justice, AP)

Edgar Tamayo Arias. (Texas department of criminal justice, AP)

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Washington - The state of Texas executed a Mexican man convicted of murder on Wednesday, despite a diplomatic outcry and pressure from the US federal government to further review his case.

Edgar Tamayo Arias's case had sparked widespread protests as he was not advised of his right to receive consular assistance at the time of his arrest, in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

"The Mexican government urges effective action and calls for avoiding other sentences issued in contempt of the International Court of Justice's ruling in order not to damage the regime of consular assistance and protection agreed between the countries", a foreign ministry statement read.

It said that Tamayo's remains would be sent to Mexico, in accordance with the family's wishes.

The inmate's lawyers had hoped to win a last-minute reprieve from the US Supreme Court after failing to persuade lower courts, only to have their appeal for a stay of execution denied in a matter of hours.

Tamayo, aged 46, was pronounced dead at 21:32 in the execution chamber of Huntsville prison after declining to make a final statement, spokesperson Jason Clark said.

His lawyers said he spoke very little English at the time of his arrest for the 1994 murder of a policeman in Houston and is mentally handicapped.

"If he had had the assistance of the Mexican consulate at the time of trial, Mr Tamayo would never have been sentenced to death", defence attorneys Sandra Babcock and Maurie Levin said in a statement.

Treaty commitments

In 2004, the UN's International Court of Justice ordered the United States to provide judicial review of the convictions and sentences of Tamayo and 50 other Mexican nationals who were denied consular assistance.

Tamayo was the third Mexican national to be executed in Texas without proper judicial review, and a fourth is scheduled to be put to death in April.

"The execution of Mr Tamayo violates the United States's treaty commitments, threatens the nation's foreign policy interests and undermines the safety of all Americans abroad", his lawyers added.

"It is now imperative that Congress promptly act to ensure passage of legislation that will bring the US into compliance with its international legal commitments and provide judicial review to the Mexican nationals who remain on death row in violation of their consular rights."

The 1963 Vienna Convention treaty, to which 176 nations are party including the United States, sets out how authorities must act when foreign nationals are arrested or detained.

This involves notifying the individuals in question of their right to have their consulate informed of their arrest. They subsequently also have the right to consular assistance.


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