Texas Shouldn't – BUT JUST DID – Execute a Mexican National

Yesterday, at 9:32 p.m., the state of Texas executed Edgar Arias Tamayo, a 46-year-old Mexican national. Injecting lethal drugs into Mr. Tamayo's bloodstream was a clear violation of the United States' international obligations, and yet the state of Texas wasn't deterred.

What's going on here? The short answer: a deadly combination of a blood-thirsty state and a stalled Congress.

Let's start with the state. Texas' death penalty system is notorious. Despite well-founded concerns about innocent people ending up on death row, racial bias, inadequate assistance of counsel, and a whole host of other problems, Texas has put 509 people to death in the last three decades. These executions continue despite the fact that six other states have repealed the death penalty in the last six years (and three other states – Delaware, Nebraska, and Colorado – have come close). Texas remains one of the reasons that the U.S. is an outlier among democratic nations, ranking 5th in the world in the number of executions, after China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

And now to our stalled Congress. In 2004, the International Court of Justice  (ICJ) found that Mr. Tamayo and 50 other Mexican death row prisoners in the United States were denied their right to contact their consular representatives upon their arrest and without delay. This denial violates the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which the United States ratified without reservations in 1969. The ICJ ordered the United States to provide effective "review and consideration" of their convictions and sentences in order to determine in each case if the denial of access to consular assistance was prejudicial. The problem is that the states have been given a free pass to violate this treaty, as Texas did in executing Mr. Tamayo.

Here's what happened. In 2008, the Supreme Court decided that the Vienna Convention Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes is not self-executing treaty that would have binding effect in the domestic courts and that the President did not have the authority to enforce the ICJ decision unilaterally. The Court decided that Congress needs to pass legislation in order to implement the ICJ judgment. Congress, unsurprisingly, has dragged its feet. The result: an illegal loophole states are exploiting to execute foreign nationals in violation of international law.

What Texas did last night was wrong. As long as Texas is part of the Union, it remains obligated to abide by U.S. international obligations, including ratified treaties, which are considered the law of the land under the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause.

But Texas is not the only one who has done something wrong. Just last week, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, harshly criticized the House of Representatives for rejecting a Senate provision in the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act that would have brought the U.S. into compliance with the Vienna Consular Convention. He made this powerful argument:

By not including this provision we jeopardize the essential right of consular assistance for Americans arrested in foreign countries, and weaken our credibility as a nation that respects the rule of law.

We couldn't agree more.

Next March, the United States' untenable position on the death penalty will be subject to a review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, a body of independent experts that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty the United States ratified in 1992. In a shadow report to the committee, the ACLU highlighted the system's many flaws, including the fact that the death penalty is applied in arbitrary and discriminatory manner without affording vital due process rights, such as access to effective counsel and the right to remedy to halt executions - not to mention that methods of execution and death row conditions have been condemned as cruel, inhuman, or degrading.

The train has left the station. It is only a matter of time until all states join the evolving international consensus that rejects the legal and moral foundation of the death penalty. Unfortunately, it will be at higher human cost and unacceptable flouting of international law.

Learn more about abolishing the death penalty and other civil liberty issuesSign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Add a comment (11)
Read the Terms of Use


Well...I don't know who their governor is, I can't recall his name, but he's a major doofus. He's the one who's always trying to force anti-abortion stuff through while executing people on the side.
One time he forced an anti-abortion law into existence and on the same DAY they executed some woman.
Right. Doofus. Or brain-dead.


Police killer say no more.

David S.

Stick with the point people. This scum bag placed a gun to the back of the head of a police officer and fired 3 times. As far as I'm concerned the Cops immediately on arrival should have shot him on the spot! Piece of crap got what he deserved and its about time nationals are held accountable for the murders they commit in our country. Last I heard the "American" civil liberties Union doesn't say Mexican civil liberties union so take note ACLU and remember whom our "Civil" liberty's were created for as you should be condemning a scumbag whom murdered in cold blood an "American" law Enforcement personal who place their lives in danger everyday to protect us just like our soldiers do abroad. This was a cut and dry case of 1st degree murder...And I'm a Union Man Blue collar working Democrat and prior serviceman from North Dakota so forget about even trying to twist me into a Texas Republican....


play the game, pay the price..if laws were acted on as should be he would not been here to kill someone, at some point. we all have rights but never take away someones rights and life and that what this person did. Do we have the same playing field in Mexico, No we don't, Would a ACLU go to Mexico and help someone, it NEVER has. So its a very unequal and if your lucky you might make it out of Jail in Mexico if you are lucky to live that long..its a free for all and only the strong make it.


I was FOR the death penalty and still sort of am, but after hearing of an execution in Ohio that took 20 minutes to happen, I changed my mind about wanting them to take more than 5 minutes to die.
No matter WHAT they did, or WHO they killed (which IMO all people are equally important but never mind) giving them a death sentence with untested medicine that takes them 20 minutes to die makes me believe there's no difference between the murderer and the people who approve of execution.
I agreed with it but I thought it took less than 5 minutes to die.
I'm a paramedic. I've seen people die within 2 to 5 minutes, but you'd never get away with doing the type of execution that would entail.
I refuse to look like I think the same way a murderer does.
I'm a relative of someone who was murdered, which is WHY I approved of capital punishment but only under assumption that the execution wasn't taking longer than a few minutes for it to happen.
If they refuse to care how long the execution takes then I'll vote against continuing the death penalty.
I also think it's disgusting that the family members want to WATCH the execution. I'd NEVER want to do that. I can trust it's been done without having to watch it for God's sake.
IMO it's too morbid.


Well Texas gives a child a chance to be a good person and not murder people. If that child then becomes an adult and murders people Texas ends his life just as he/she/it did to others. Where's the problem? However, I do lean towards the side that we are executing innocent people now and in the past and it's not for us to judge life or death.


He got what he deserved. If illegals come here and commit crimes they need to be punished just like the rest of us. They don't deserve to be treated any differently than any American or any immigrant that went through the steps to citizenship.


We should Overide traders like the aclu who are Liberal entagance. " Texas Shouldn't what "? They should not have taken so long to punish an Illegal Alien COP KILLER!

ACADP (Australia)

Continuous flouting of International Human Rights laws will have consequences. In a civilized society, the revengful act of rejoicing at the legalized killing of a human being can only be described as 'sick'. But more importantly, when will the USA admit that their death penalty system has always been, and continues to be, a seriously flawed, riddled with legal errors, corrupt, racist, discriminative and a broken system that is rotten to the very core? What does it take to abolish this blood-thirsty barbarism?


He got what he had coming...He should get punishment greater that what a citizen would get.

Death should not just be going to sleep...we need to bring back the electric chair.


Stay Informed