GENEVA (AP) — The United States broke international law when it executed a Mexican citizen, the United Nations' top human rights official said Friday.
The Texas execution of Humberto Leal "raises particular legal concerns," including whether he had access to consular services and a fair trial, said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
Leal was executed Thursday evening for the 1994 rape and murder of a San Antonio teenager after his attorneys, supported also by the Mexican government and other diplomats, unsuccessfully sought a stay.
Mexico's government, President Barack Obama's administration and others wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the execution to allow Congress time to consider legislation that would require court reviews for condemned foreign nationals who aren't offered the help of their consulates. The high court rejected the request 5-4.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry also declined to block the execution. Texas, the nation's most active death penalty state, has executed other condemned foreign nationals who raised similar challenges, most recently in 2008.
"Texas is not bound by a foreign court's ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the treaty was not binding on the states and that the president does not have the authority to order states to review cases of the then 51 foreign nationals on death row in the U.S," said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Perry.
But what Texas did also "places the U.S. in breach of international law," said Pillay, who visited Mexico this week. "What the state of Texas has done in this case is imputable in law to the U.S. and engages the United States' international responsibility."
Pillay said Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles each failed to exercise consular and fair-trial obligations — spelled out under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and an International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — that could have prevented the U.S. from breaching its obligations under international law.
Pillay also cited a 2004 International Court of Justice ruling saying the U.S. must review and reconsider the cases of 51 Mexican nationals — including Leal — who were sentenced to death. She said those reviews never happened.
She said the execution undermined "the role of the International Court of Justice, and its ramifications are likely to spread far beyond Texas."
Mexico's foreign ministry has said in a statement it condemns the execution of Leal and has sent a note of protest to the U.S. State Department. It said Mexico's ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, also attempted to contact Perry, who refused to speak on the phone.
Leal, a 38-year-old mechanic, repeatedly apologized and then shouted "Viva Mexico!" as the lethal drugs began taking effect Thursday.
He was sentenced to death for killing 16-year-old Adria Sauceda, whose brutalized nude body was found hours after the two left a street party.