FOREIGN NATIONALS: Reprieve Issues New Report on Foreign Nationals on Death Row In U.S.

A new report by Reprieve, a non-profit organization based in London that provides legal representation and humanitarian assistance to foreign nationals on death row in the U.S., found that many U.S. states were not in compliance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).  This treaty, which the U.S. has signed and ratified, requires participating countries to give arrested individuals from other countries timely notice of their right to contact their consular officials.  In 95% of the U.S. death penalty cases involving foreign nationals reviewed by Reprieve, the requirements of the treaty had not been met. The report stated, “It is widely accepted that foreign nationals are at a significant disadvantage when confronted with the intricacies of the US criminal justice system - particularly when facing capital charges. They are likely to encounter various cultural and linguistic barriers that hamper their ability effectively to engage in the judicial process."  The report noted that none of the 37 death penalty states satisfactorily met their obligations under the VCCR, and even the federal government failed in 75% of their cases for which there was data.  The report concluded with a series of recommendations for other countries to follow to effect full U.S. implementation of this treaty.

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INTERNATIONAL: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Calls for Hold on Executions

On August 3, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS), which includes the U.S., called for a moratorium on executions in the region and released a report reviewing key areas of concern about the death penalty. The report made a series of recommendations for member States, including:
- States should refrain from any measure that would expand the application of the death penalty or reintroduce it,
- States should take any measures necessary to ensure compliance with the strictest standards of due process in capital cases,
- States should adopt any steps required to ensure that domestic legal standards conform to the heightened level of review applicable in death penalty cases, and
- States should ensure full compliance with decisions of the Inter-American Commission and Court, and specifically with decisions concerning individual death penalty cases and precautionary and provisional measures.

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CLEMENCY: Daughter in Canada Asks Montana Governor to Spare Her Father's Life

Ronald Smith (pictured) is one of two Canadian citizens on death row in the United States. Smith is facing execution in Montana for the kidnapping and murder of two members of the Blackfeet Nation thirty years ago. Smith’s co-defendant, Rodney Munro, pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping and was returned to Canada and released from jail in 1998. Munro credits Smith for saving his life, saying that he was given a plea deal and released because Smith admitted to the murders. Carmen Blackburn, Smith’s daughter, and her family recently had a one-hour audience with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to request clemency.  Blackburn said that although the Governor was still unsure of his decision, he did not feel that it is fair for Smith to be executed when his co-defendant was paroled. Blackburn also said that Gov. Schweitzer might be interested in speaking with her father before making a final decision. She said, “He did say he wouldn't mind meeting with my dad. It's one thing to hear about the remorse but when you hear it in my dad's voice and you see it in my dad's eyes — that's the difference. You can't fake remorse because your true colours always show through. You can see how much he regrets what he's done and wishes he could turn time back.”

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FOREIGN NATIONALS: Information About Citizens from Other Countries on U.S. Death Rows

New information on foreign nationals facing the death penalty in the U.S. is now available on DPIC’s Foreign Nationals page. This page provides background information on citizens from other countries who have been sentenced to death in various states and under the federal system.  The list includes information on whether these defendants were informed of their consular rights under the Vienna Convention, which the U.S. has ratified and depends upon to protect its citizens when they travel abroad.  Some foreign nationals have been executed in the U.S. despite not being properly informed of their rights under this treaty.  The new information was provided by Mark Warren of Human Rights Research.

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FOREIGN NATIONALS: The Importance of Intervention for Citizens of Other Countries Facing U.S. Death Penalty

A new video prepared with international support discusses the importance of foreign embassies lending support when citizens of their countries face the death penalty in the United States.  According to Ambassador Joao Vale de Almedia, Head of the European Union Delegation to the U.S., “Foreign nationals are particularly vulnerable in death penalty cases. They’re most likely not to know the language perfectly, and certainly not know the way justice is administered in that particular country. So it’s only normal that they require particular attention and help.”  Article 36 of the Vienna Convention for Consular Relations, a bi-lateral treaty that the U.S. has signed and ratified, requires that foreign nationals arrested in the United States (or elsewhere) be told of their right to communicate with their consulate for assistance. The video features Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador Bianca Jagger, as well as Ambassador Almedia and other legal experts, who describe some of the problems that foreign citizens face in the justice system and how consular officials can be of assistance.  There are about 136 foreign nationals on U.S. death rows from 37 different countries.

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