The Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights urges the United States to call off the June 19, 2001 execution of
federal death row inmate Juan Raúl Garza and thereby respect the
Commission’s finding that the United States violated its international
human rights obligations in sentencing Mr. Garza to the death penalty.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is the principal human rights
organ of the Organization of American States (OAS). The United States, as a
member state of the OAS, is subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction to
consider petitions that allege violations by the United States of an
individual’s rights under the American Declaration of the Rights and
Duties of Man. The American Declaration prescribes the basic human rights
that all OAS member States must guarantee to persons under their authority
or control, including the right to life, the right to a fair trial, and the
right to due process.
a final report adopted by the Commission on April 4, 2001, the Commission
found that Mr. Garza was sentenced to death based in part upon crimes
alleged to have been committed in the Republic of Mexico, but for which Mr.
Garza had never been charged, tried or convicted. Moreover, as those alleged
crimes did not occur within the jurisdiction of the United States as
prescribed under applicable U.S. federal law, they could not have been
prosecuted by the United States. The Commission concluded that condemning
Mr. Garza to death based upon allegations of this nature was “antithetical
to the most basic and fundamental judicial guarantees applicable in
attributing responsibility and punishment to individuals for crimes.”
Consequently, the Commission found the United States responsible for
violating Mr. Garza’s right to life, liberty and personal security, to a
fair trial and to due process of law under Articles I, XVIII and XXVI of the
American Declaration. Based upon its findings, the Commission recommended
that the United States provide Mr. Garza with an effective remedy, which
included commutation of his death sentence. The Commission’s report can be
found at http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/2000eng/ChapterIII/Merits/USA12.243.htm.
the Commission’s conclusions and recommendations, the Commission
understands that the United States has scheduled Mr. Garza’s execution to
take place on June 19, 2001. The Commission is gravely concerned by this
development. As the Commission indicated in its report, the United States
will perpetrate a deliberate and irreparable violation of the right to life
under Article I of the American Declaration, should it proceed with Mr.
Garza’s execution based upon his flawed criminal proceedings. Accordingly,
in a communication issued on June 14, 2001 during its 112th
special period of sessions, the Commission reiterated its request that the
United States comply with its most fundamental international human rights
obligations by commuting Mr. Garza’s death sentence. In a response dated
June 15, 2001, the United States indicated that it disagreed with the
Commission’s conclusions in Mr. Garza’s case and considered Mr.
Garza’s complaint to be “manifestly groundless.” The Commission cannot
accept the State’s position and once again calls upon the United States to
respect its human rights obligations by staying Mr. Garza’s execution and
commuting his death sentence.