U.S. Still Fails to Meet International Obligation to Provide Consular Access

Each year, thousands of Americans are arrested abroad. Access to U.S. consular officers under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) ensures that U.S. citizens receive legal assistance, that their treatment is monitored, and that they are connected to their family and friends back home. As a new video from the advocacy group Reprieve explains, foreign nationals detained in the U.S. also benefit immensely from consular access. Yet, while the U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously affirmed the existence of an obligation for state and federal law enforcement officers to provide consular notification and access for foreign nationals detained in the U.S., the Court also held Congress needed to act before federal judges could remedy state violations.  As a result, in July 2011, Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia was executed, despite being denied consular assistance prior to and during his trial. There are currently more than 130 foreign nationals on death row in the U.S., many of whom have been denied consular access.  Lives of others like Mr. Leal are at stake because the U.S. is failing to honor its international obligations. Deeply concerned, TCP and former U.S. diplomats and officials have written statements and letters to Congress urging members to support legislation that would facilitate compliance the VCCR.  To learn more about the issue, read TCP’s report Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited.

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