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Treaties of the United States-Supreme Law of the Land?

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Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Department of State

Link to the United Nations Treaty Collection

The United States has signed and ratified many Treaties, as shown on this list of Treaties of United States. Treaties of the United States "...shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby..." Art. VI cl. 2, U.S. Const.

 

But even a signed and Senate-approved or ratified treaty may be ineffective when a signator declares that the treaty is not self-executing, or the treaty is subject to declarations and reservations that render it useless, or the treaty lacks an individual complaint process, or the treaty requires an optional protocol not agreed to, but required to be effective. This list shows treaties unsigned or unratified by the United States.

 

This page considers four Treaties of the United States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the Supreme Law of the Land. U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 2

 

  1. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  2. United Nations Convention against Corruption
  3. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  4. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Treaties of the United States-Supreme Law of the Land?

Link to the U.S. Senate Treaties Index Page

Under Article II, section II of the Constitution, the Senate must advice and consent to ratification of treaties that have been negotiated and agreed to by the president.

Treaties of the United States

The Constitution provides that the president "shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur"

(Article II, section 2, clause 2).

 

U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 2, clause 2
[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;

 

U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 2
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.

 

Treaty Clause, Wikipedia

Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, includes the Treaty Clause, which empowers the President of the United States to propose and chiefly negotiate agreements, which must be confirmed by the Senate, between the United States and other countries, which become treaties between the United States and other countries after the advice and consent of a supermajority of the United States Senate. Read more

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris, 10 December 1948

Resolution 217(A)(III), December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly by a vote of 48 in favor, including the United States, none against, and eight abstentions. (Wikipedia)

 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris, 10 December 1948

Universal Declaration of Human Rights - UDHR

60th Anniversary

 

President George W. Bush addressed The United Nations General Assembly, September 25, 2007.

 

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for the opportunity to address the General Assembly of the United Nations. Sixty years ago, representatives from 16 nations gathered to begin deliberations on a new international bill of rights. The document they produced is called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- and it stands as a landmark achievement in the history of human liberty. It opens by recognizing "the inherent dignity" and the "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family" as "the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world." And as we gather for this 62nd General Assembly, the standards of the Declaration must guide our work in this world....

 

Pres Bush addresses UN Gen Assembly UDHR
Pres Bush addresses UN Gen Assembly UDHR[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [232.0 KB]

International Convention on Civil and Political Rights

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, New York, 16 Dec. 1966

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - ICCPR 

UN - International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

 Article VI of the U.S. Constitution provides "...all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights

 

Report Concerning the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

 

The U.S. Department of State shows the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR), Annex A to the Common Core Document of the United States, State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Human Rights Organizations and Programs.

 

1. State, local, tribal, and territorial human rights organizations and programs play a critical role in U.S. implementation of the human rights treaties to which the United States is a party, including the,

  1. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  2. Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  3. Convention Against Torture (CAT)...read more

Fourth Periodic Report of the United States of America to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights Concerning the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

December 30, 2011.

United Nations Convention Against Corruption-UNCAC

United Nations Convention against Corruption, New York, 31 October 2003

United Nations Convention against Corruption UNCAC Wikipedia

UNODC's Action against Corruption and Economic Crime

  • Signed by President George W. Bush December 9, 2003
  • Confirmed by the United States October 30, 2006

Corruption is a complex social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. Signed by the United States December 9, 2003, and ratified by the United States October 30, 2006.

 

Wikipedia reports "In its 71 Articles divided into 8 Chapters, UNCAC requires that States Parties implement several anti-corruption measures which may affect their laws, institutions and practices."

 

UNCAC's Forward: "Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish. This evil phenomenon is found in all countries..." (English PDF).

 

The U.N. Global Compact site anti-corruption resources.

 

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution provides "...all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - CAT

Link: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, New York, 10 December 1984

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - CAT Wikipedia

  • Signed by President Ronald Reagan April 18, 1988
  • Confirmed by the United States October 21, 1994

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the “Torture Convention”) was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1984 (resolution 39/46). The Convention entered into force on 26 June 1987 after it had been ratified by 20 States.

 

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution provides "...all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." (in part)

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, New York, 21 December 1965

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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Concluding observations combined seventh-ninth periodic reports of the United States of America, Sept-24-2014
Committee on the Elimination of Racial D[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [261.8 KB]
Racial Discrimination Health and Human Rights
Racial Discrimination Health and Human R[...]
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"Legal aid, a right in itself" – UN Special Rapporteur

Link to "Legal aid, a right in itself" – UN Special Rapporteur
Mrs. Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (to July 2015)

"Legal aid, a right in itself" UN Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul

 

GENEVA (30 May 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, today urged world governments to develop and sustain effective legal aid systems as an essential component of a fair and efficient justice system founded on the rule of law.

 

"Legal aid is both a right in itself and an essential precondition for the exercise and enjoyment of a number of human rights, including the rights to a fair trial and to an effective remedy," said Ms. Knaul, presenting her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council. "It represents an important safeguard that contributes to ensuring the fairness and public trust in the administration of justice."

 

"Legal aid should be as broad as possible," she said, stressing that its aim "is to contribute to the elimination of obstacles and barriers that impair or restrict access to justice by providing assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system."

 

The human rights expert underlined that legal aid should not only include the right to free legal assistance in criminal proceedings, but also the provision of effective legal assistance in any judicial or extrajudicial procedure aimed at determining rights and obligations.

 

"States bear the primary responsibility to adopt all appropriate measures to fully realize the right to legal aid for any individual within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction," the Special Rapporteur said. "Beneficiaries of legal aid should include any person who comes into contact with the law and does not have the means to pay for counsel."

 

"The right to legal aid must be legally guaranteed in national legal systems at the highest possible level, possibly in the Constitution," Ms. Knaul highlighted among the specific recommendations provided in her new report.

 

The independent expert also observed that it is up to the individual State to identify the model that can maximize access to free legal aid for all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction.

 

"Regardless of the structure of the legal aid programme or its formal status, it is of paramount importance that legal aid schemes be autonomous, independent, effective, sustainable and easily available in order to ensure that they serve the interests of those who need financial support to have access to justice on an equal basis with others," she concluded.

 

Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any Government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems.

 

Read more at the UN

 

"Legal aid, a right in itself" – UN Special Rapporteur
“Legal aid, a right in itself” – UN Spec[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [48.7 KB]