On January 22, 2014, the State of Texas executed Edgar Arias Tamayo, following his conviction for the murder of a Houston, Texas police officer in 1994. Mr. Tamayo was a Mexican national subject to the International Court of Justice’s Avena decision. The Court in Avena found that the United States had failed to provide consular notification and access to 51 Mexican nationals, including Mr. Tamayo, as required under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR). The United States, like 170 other countries around the world, is party to the VCCR. The VCCR ensures that individuals who are detained in a foreign country can receive access to and assistance from their embassies and consulates overseas in order to navigate foreign legal systems or otherwise get the assistance that they need. In Avena, the International Court of Justice ordered the United States to provide “review and reconsideration” of the 51 Mexican nationals’ convictions and sentences to determine whether they were actually prejudiced by not having been afforded consular notification and access in accordance with the VCCR.
The United States’ compliance with our international obligations under Avena is critical to our ability to ensure consular access and assistance for our own citizens who are arrested or detained by foreign governments, as well as to maintain cooperation from foreign governments on a broad range of law enforcement and other issues. The Department of State had communicated these important interests to Texas authorities with respect to Mr. Tamayo’s case, including urging Texas to delay Mr. Tamayo’s execution in order to provide an opportunity for the review of Mr. Tamayo’s conviction and sentence required under the Avena decision. The Department regrets Texas’ decision to proceed with Mr. Tamayo’s execution without that review and reconsideration, but remains committed to working to uphold our international obligations under the Avena judgment. This case illustrates the critical importance of Congress passing the Consular Notification Compliance Act, which would provide an additional mechanism for the United States to meet our international obligations.