Press Release

IACHR Urges the United States to Stay the Execution of Roberto Moreno Ramos

November 1, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the United States of America to stay the execution of Roberto Moreno Ramos, a Mexican citizen, which is scheduled for November 14, 2018, in the state of Texas, and to grant him effective relief. The United States is subject to the international obligations derived from the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man since it joined the OAS in 1951. Accordingly, the IACHR urges the United States, and in particular the state of Texas, to fully respect its international human rights obligations.

On November 8, 2002, the IACHR granted precautionary measures in favor of Roberto Moreno Ramos, requesting that the United States take measures to preserve his life pending the Commission’s investigation of the allegations in his petition.

The IACHR adopted Admissibility Report No. 61/03 on October 10, 2003. On January 28, 2005, the Commission adopted Merits Report No. 1/05 in which it concluded that the United States was responsible for violating the rights to equality before the law, to due process of law, and to a fair trial in respect of the criminal proceedings that led to the imposition of the death penalty against Roberto Moreno Ramos. In that report, the IACHR concluded that should the State execute him pursuant to the criminal proceedings at issue in the case, it would commit a grave and irreparable violation of the fundamental right to life guaranteed in Article I of the American Declaration. Further, the IACHR recommended to the United States that it provide Roberto Moreno Ramos with an effective remedy, including a new sentencing hearing in accordance with the equality, due process, and fair trial protections established in the American Declaration, including the right to competent legal representation. Despite having made this recommendation in 2005, the State has not taken actions to comply with it. The IACHR held a working meeting regarding Roberto Moreno Ramos’ case between the United States and the petitioner on October 2, 2018, during its 169th Period of Sessions in which the Commission called on the State as a matter of urgency to halt his execution and to comply with the recommendations of the IACHR.

The Inter-American Commission reminds the State that, in carrying out the execution of Roberto Moreno Ramos, it would commit a grave and irreparable violation of the fundamental right to life under Article I of the American Declaration. Further, it would mean that the State has failed to comply with the recommendations of the IACHR, an action which goes against the United States’ international human rights obligations as an OAS Member State under the OAS Charter and related instruments.

The Commission also urges the United States to comply with the non-repetition measures recommended in the Merits Report. The United States should review its laws, procedures, and practices to ensure that foreign nationals who are arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial, or who are detained in any other manner in the United States, are informed without delay of their right to information on consular assistance and that, with the person’s approval, the appropriate consulate is informed without delay of the foreign national’s circumstances. Further, the United States should ensure that defendants in capital proceedings are not denied the right to effective recourse to a competent court or tribunal to challenge the competency of their legal representation on the basis that the issue was not raised at an earlier stage of the process against them.

The Inter-American Commission has dealt with the death penalty as a crucial human rights challenge for decades. While a majority of the OAS Member States has abolished capital punishment, a substantial minority retains it. The IACHR reiterates the recommendation made in its report The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition, that States impose a moratorium on executions as a step toward the gradual disappearance of the death penalty.

In this sense, the Commission welcomes the abolishment of capital punishment in the state of Washington on October 11, 2018 following a decision of the Washington Supreme Court which ruled that the punishment was applied in an arbitrary and racially biased manner. The decision resulted in the commutation of the sentences of the 8 individuals currently on death row to life, and makes the state of Washington the 20th state to ban the death penalty in the country. This is a significant step, as the United States is currently the only OAS Member State that is carrying out executions under the death penalty.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 234/18