The UN criticized the US on Friday for denying Mexican death row inmates access to their homeland’s diplomats.
Spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville condemned Wednesday’s execution of Mexican citizen Ramiro Hernandez Llanas calling it “just the latest in similar cases involving Mexican nationals.”
Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, foreigners who are put on trial must be allowed to receive advice from diplomats, who in turn must be alerted to cases involving one of their nationals.
However, the US state of Texas refuses Mexican inmates this right, which has drawn international opprobrium from the UN and rights activists.
Hernandez, 44, was executed for the 1997 killing of a former US university professor. He reportedly had escaped from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a sentence for murder.
However serious the crime, and however long an individual has been resident in the country where they fall foul of the law, the diplomatic convention applies, according to the UN.
“The United States is breaching the convention, because of what happens in Texas,” Colville said.
Washington repeatedly has argued that international law does not apply to the justice systems of the 50 individual US states, but Colville said that was invalid.
“You can’t just say: ‘Well that’s the business of the state of Texas.’ It does engage the country’s responsibility under the convention,” he said.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the US must review the cases of 51 Mexicans on death row — including Hernandez — because they had not received consular services.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has written directly to Texas Governor Rick Perry to press the issue in the past, but received a “very angry response,” Colville said.
UN criticism has no formal impact, he acknowledged, but it does carry moral weight.
“There’s no policeman knocking at the door when you breach a convention, but it doesn’t do the reputation of a country any good at all,” he said.