Spanish Government must act to stop execution of Manuel Valle, denied clemency by Florida

August 12, 2011

Spain is being urged to intervene in the case of a possible Spanish national who is facing the death penalty in Florida in less than a month, having been denied due process.

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Manuel Valle, who is expected to be killed by lethal injection on 2 September, is a Cuban national but comes from a Spanish family. Due to the chaotic nature of record-keeping in Cuba, there is too little time to make an application for Spanish nationality before his execution date.

In what appears to be a serious lapse in due process, Mr Valle has been denied clemency proceedings by the state of Florida, despite having been held on death row for 33 years.

Reprieve, a charity which assists people facing the death penalty abroad, is appealing to the King of Spain and the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs to intervene in the case of Manuel Valle before it is too late, by submitting briefs in support of his case to the US courts.

Spain has previously had a strong record on opposing the death penalty, with Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero stating that “Spain and the Spaniards are fully committed to this fight against the death penalty” and claiming that he feels “personally involved in this struggle.”

Reprieve investigator Katherine Bekesi said:

“The Spanish Government must take steps to oppose this execution. We believe Manuel Valle could be recognised as a Spanish national, but in just a few weeks it will be too late for him.

“He has been on death row an inconceivable 33 years, against all international human rights norms – an enormous amount of time to be daily awaiting ones own death.

“Mr Valle has been denied clemency proceedings, in violation of Florida’s own Constitution. If the Spanish Government does not intervene as soon as possible, they risk damaging their country’s otherwise strong credentials as staunch opponents of the death penalty.”


Notes to editors

Manuel Valle is a Cuban citizen but has strong family ties to Spain, primarily through his father’s side. However, due to difficulties accessing Cuban records, it has not been possible either to determine whether Mr Valle is eligible for Spanish nationality through his family background, and time is now running out. Additionally, the lack of proper Cuban consular representation in the US means that he has effectively been denied the consular support to which he should be entitled as a non-US citizen. Further information on Manuel Valle can be found here:

Reprieve has written to the King of Spain, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Spanish Minister of Justice, asking them to submit an ‘amicus curiae’ (‘friend of the court’) briefing in support of Manuel Valle’s case. So far, they have yet to do so.

Mr Valle’s execution was stayed earlier this month to allow consideration of whether the method of execution may constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. More information on this issue can be found here:

Mr Valle’s execution is currently expected to take place on 2 September this year.

In February 2010, Jose Luis Zapatero, then holding the European Union presidency, participated in the 4th World Congress against death penalty. On this occasion he reitered Spain’s dedication to universal abolition:

“At the present time, more than two thirds of UN member countries have abolished the death penalty in law […] Spain and the Spaniards are fully committed to this fight against the death penalty. Today is a new phase in that fight with the creation of a commission dedicated to its abolition. The commission will include people of high moral standing and from all regions of the world”.

In an interview preceding the congress, Mr Zapatero explained why abolition was a key objective of his foreign policy and of the Spanish presidency of the EU.

“As requested by the United Nations’ human rights bodies, we adopted a National plan for human rights as part of our foreign policy in December 2008. We included the fight for the abolition of the death penalty in that plan. Today, we see that a growing number of countries are in favour of abolition. We must support and encourage them. The Spanish presidency of the EU gives us visibility and an opportunity that can be leveraged for efficiency in this struggle. I feel personally involved in this struggle.”