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AUGUST 6, 2002
11:19 AM
CONTACT:  Amnesty International USA
Jen Corlew 202-544-0200, ext. 247
Texas Officials Must Halt Execution of Mexican Citizen or Flout International Law
WASHINGTON - August 6 - Texas authorities must commute Mexican national Javier Suarez's death sentence or risk defying international law, Amnesty International said today. As a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), the United States was legally bound to inform Suarez when he was arrested of his right to legal assistance from the Mexican government, who could have provided competent counsel and thwarted the troubling irregularities in his trial, the organization said. Texas currently holds 25 foreign nationals on death row, 17 of whom are Mexican citizens.

"The US government would never allow one of its citizens to face trial and execution in a foreign country without access to US assistance -- and therefore must respect Mexico's wishes to halt this execution" said Eric Olson, Americas Director for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA.) "The US must respect its obligation to international law and commute the death sentence of Javier Suarez."

Suarez was sentenced to death in 1989 for the murder of undercover police officer Lawrence Cadena. His trial was severely flawed. To invoke a death sentence in Texas, the jury must unanimously agree that the offender poses a future danger to society. The jury based Suarez's propensity to "future dangerousness" on an alleged crime that had not been proved in a court and for which there was no hard evidence tying Suarez to the crime. Citing these concerns as well as new mitigating evidence that Suarez suffers from significant mental disorders, the Mexican government has called for the commutation of Suarez's sentence. The European Union, Inter-American Human Rights Commission, and the American Bar Association have also cited concerns about his case.

"Last spring the International Court of Justice ruled against the US for defying the VCCR by executing German nationals who had not been informed of their rights, yet the US persists in this practice," said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, AIUSA's Director of the Program to Abolish the Death Penalty. "The United States cannot claim to uphold international law while defying a binding judgment from the world's highest court."

In a case similar to Suarez's, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled last year to vacate the death sentence of Mexican national Gerardo Valdez because local officials also violated his right to consular notification and due to mitigating evidence Mexican government officials discovered.

Suarez has exhausted all normal avenues of appeal and is scheduled to be executed on August 14th. Suarez was 19 years old at the time of the crime; this is his 14th execution date since 1995.

To receive a copy of Amnesty International's report, "A Time for Action -- Protecting the consular rights of foreign nationals facing the death penalty" contact Jen Corlew at the above number


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