Amnesty International has called on the authorities in the US state of Texas to halt the planned execution of a Mexican national this week which would violate an international law.
Edgar Arias Tamayo, who was sentenced to death for the murder of a Houston police officer in 1994, is set to be executed on Wednesday 22 January despite an order from the International Court of Justice made in 2004.
Last September, US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to the Texas Governor, Rick Perry, urging that an execution date not be set for Mr Tamayo. The letter reiterated that the International Court of Justice’s ruling “is binding on the United States under international law”.
The basis of the International Court of Justice’s order was that Tamayo, along with other Mexican nationals, was not informed of his right to seek consular advice without delay after his arrest. This denied him assistance that could have provided pivotal evidence in the case. The ruling ordered the USA to ensure judicial review and reconsideration in the cases of more than 50 Mexican nationals – including Tamayo – sentenced to death after their consular rights were denied. However, Tamayo’s claim that he was prejudiced by this violation of international law has to this day never been reviewed by a court.
Additionally in Tamayo’s case, his trial lawyer failed to present a range of mitigation factors including the deprivation and abuse his client suffered as a child, his developmental problems and the impact on his behaviour of a very serious head injury he suffered when he was 17. In 2008 a psychologist put Tamayo’s intellectual functioning in the “mild mental retardation” range, which would render his execution unconstitutional under US law.
Amnesty International’s USA researcher Rob Freer said:
“Texas has been shamefully insistent in scheduling this execution in the full knowledge that to carry it out will violate international law.
“The denial of consular rights can literally mean the difference between life and death in the USA, where representation for people facing death penalty charges unable to pay for their own lawyers, has frequently been inadequate.
“If Edgar Tamayo’s jury had heard the sort of evidence uncovered since his trial with the help of the Mexican authorities, it is surely possible that one or more jurors would have voted for life imprisonment instead of the death penalty.”
Former Texas Governor and Attorney General Mark White earlier this week called on the current governor and attorney general to uphold the promise they made in 2008 to support the judicial review process. White, who personally supports the death penalty, stressed that it was a question of “fairness and having the courts hear all the key facts”. Such a review, he said, “could have made a real difference” in Tamayo’s case.
The execution of Tamayo would also contravene a November 2013 request from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calling on the Texas authorities not to execute him until the Commission had reviewed the claims of his mental retardation. Amnesty members around the world, including in Mexico and the USA, have been calling on Texas to halt the execution.