WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Texas put to death a Mexican convicted murderer late Tuesday, defying a ruling from the International Court of Justice and ignoring a last-minute appeal from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Jose Ernesto Medellin, 33, was killed by lethal injection in the Huntsville death chamber at 9:57 p.m. (0257 GMT Wednesday), Texas Department of Criminal Justice official Jason Clark told AFP.
Medellin was sentenced to die for the 1993 rape and murder of two girls, aged 14 and 16, in Houston, Texas. The Mexican-born Medellin was in the midst of an initiation into the Black and Whites street gang at the time.
The ICJ told U.S. authorities in 2004 that Medellin's case and that of other Mexicans facing execution violated the Vienna Convention because authorities failed to inform the foreigners of their right to consular access and assistance during trial.
U.S. President George W. Bush ordered that the cases be reviewed, but the U.S. Supreme Court in March ruled that his request was unconstitutional.
Appeal from UN chief:
Medellin's execution went ahead even though Ban urged U.S. authorities to comply with the ICJ's order.
"All decisions and orders of the International Court of Justice must be respected by states," Ban warned in Mexico City, where he was attending the world AIDS conference.
"The United States should take every step to make sure the execution does not take place," he added.
Since the 2004 ruling, some US states have agreed to review their death row cases.
But Texas has refused, arguing -- with the support of the March Supreme Court ruling -- that its state courts, which decided the Medellin case, are not bound by the ICJ treaty.
The execution came after a divided U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch appeal from Medellin's lawyers for a reprieve that would give the U.S. Congress and Texas legislature time to pass legislation allowing the state to comply with ICJ orders.
The U.S. House of Representatives took up such a bill after an ICJ ruling on July 16 to postpone the execution. But Congress is now in recess until September.
The State Department said the federal government was powerless to stop the execution, citing the March Supreme Court decision.
"This case presents a difficult situation," said Kurtis Cooper, a Department spokesman.
"We have an indisputable international law obligation that conflicts with state law," he said.
"The Supreme Court has ruled the president has neither the constitutional power nor the legislative authority to overturn the state rules."
Medellin's execution was delayed for more than three hours while the Supreme Court wrestled with his petition.
In a 5-4 decision, the majority wrote that the chance for the legislatures to take action was "too remote" to justify a stay of execution.
The majority added that the Justice Department never asked it to intervene in the case.
"Its silence is no surprise: The United States has not wavered in its position that petitioner was not prejudiced by his lack of consular access," read the ruling.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that Medellin's execution "will place this nation in violation of international law."
Amnesty International had urged Governor Rick Perry to stay the execution.
"Even President Bush, who signed scores of death warrants as Texas governor, concurred some time ago that the United States must honor its international obligations in this case," said Larry Cox, executive director for Amnesty in the United States.
"There will be no clearer sign that Texas will have gone beyond the pale than if Jose Medellin's execution goes forward."
In Mexico City, the foreign ministry said it had sent a protest letter to the State Department, arguing that Medellin's execution was a treaty violation.
Mexico said it was concerned "for the precedent it could set for the rights of Mexican nationals that could be detained" in the United States.
A large black bow, a protest banner and flowers decorated the home where Medellin grew up in located in the border town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
"We are praying for Jose Ernesto," said Medellin's distraught aunt Beatriz Salazar, fingering her rosary beads. Several relatives had gathered at the home waiting for news.Salazar told reporters that Medellin last meet with his father, mother and sister on Monday at the Huntsville prison.