The U.S. has a proud international human rights record. A prior post looked at the 19 significant multilateral human rights treaties to which the U.S. is a party.
But this record is not perfect.
There are nine other such treaties that have been signed by the U.S., but not yet ratified, as discussed in another post.
In addition, there are at least seven other significant human rights treaties that the U.S. has not yet even signed, thereby negating the possibility of their being ratified by the U.S. They are the following (with the dates they generally went into force):
This list plus the list of treaties signed, but not yet ratified, by the U.S., show that the work of U.S. human rights advocates is not finished.
We must continue to press for U.S. signing (in seven instances) and ratification of these 16 treaties. We also must continue to investigate possible violations of all human rights treaties all around the world. We must continue to take private action (where possible) to enforce these treaties. We must continue to press for enforcement of those treaties by the U.S., by other countries around the world and by international organizations. In the meantime, we must continue our efforts to educate people and governments about these important principles and international law of human rights.
 See David Weissbrodt, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Joan Fitzpatrick, Frank Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy, and Process at 138-39 (4th ed. LexisNexis 2009).
 The Optional Protocol to the ICCPR grants the U.N. Committee on Human Rights jurisdiction to consider individuals’ complaints of alleged violations of the Covenant.
 The Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR seeks the abolition of the death penalty.
 The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture establishes the Subcommittee on Prevention and a system of regular inspections of places of detention by independent observers.
Moreover, only one of these nine treaties was put to a vote in the whole Senate (the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities), and on December 4, 2012, it failed by five votes to get the constitutionally necessary two-thirds vote for advice and consent.
Another of these nine treaties (Discrimination Against Women) went to the Senate floor twice (in 1994 and 2002) with favorable recommendations from the Foreign Relations Committee, but was never voted upon by the entire Senate, and thus the resolutions for advice and consent to this treaty died upon adjournment of those congressional sessions.
The Senate Committee held hearings on two of these signed treaties in 1978 (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and American Convention on Human Rights), but never reported them to the entire Senate. Thus, they died in committee as did Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions, which never received a committee hearing.
Thus, all of these five signed human rights treaties remain on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ inventory (as of 2/10/2013) of 87 treaties awaiting further action by the Committee and the Senate as a whole.
As an outsider, I believe that these five treaties will be brought to the Senate floor if and only if the Committee’s Chair believes there is a reasonable likelihood that they would receive the constitutionally necessary two-thirds vote for advice and consent. Their past languishing in committee is an indication, in my opinion, that there has not been over the years the necessary two-thirds senatorial support for having these treaties ratified.
The fate of these nine human rights treaties that have been signed, but not ratified, is additional evidence of the complex and difficult procedures for obtaining U.S. ratification of treaties. And it is not only human rights treaties that do not make it to the end of the ratification process as we have seen in posts about the Treaty of the Law of the Sea.
 See David Weissbrodt, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Joan Fitzpatrick, Frank Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy, and Process at 138 (4th ed. LexisNexis 2009).
 The American Convention on Human Rights is substantially similar to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic. Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, it establishes the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
 The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides that the parties shall take steps for the progressive realization (to the full extent of available resources) of the rights to gain a living by work, to have safe and healthy working conditions, to enjoy trade union rights, to receive social security, to have protection for the family, to possess adequate housing and clothing, to be free from hunger, to receive health care, to obtain free public education and to participate in cultural life, creative activity and scientific research.
 Optional Protocol II offers protection to civilians and the wounded in non-international armed conflicts.
 This summary of the five listed treaties is based upon their being listed on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ inventory of treaties awaiting Senate action.
 The assertion that the first three of these four treaties have not been submitted to the Senate is an inference from their not being on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s inventory of treaties awaiting Senate action and their not having been ratified by the U.S. Another possible inference is that they were submitted to, and rejected by the entire Senate, but I have not seen any indication that happened with respect to these three treaties. If anyone knows of the full Senate’s rejection of any of these four treaties, please add a comment to this post. Prior research regarding the Rome Statute, on the other hand, confirms that it has not been submitted to the Senate.
 Optional Protocol I offers protection to civilians and the wounded in international armed conflicts.
 We have examined the fate of the Rome Statute in the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama Administrations. Many other posts have discussed the work of the ICC.
Merely reviewing the list of these treaties shows the variety of their subjects and the U.S. commitment to international human rights.
 See David Weissbrodt, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Joan Fitzpatrick, Frank Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy, and Process at 136-38 (4th ed. LexisNexis 2009) [Weissbrodt Book].
 The U.N. Charter’s Preamble states that the “Peoples of the United Nations [are determined] to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” Its Article 55 requires the U.N. to promote, among other things, “universal respect for . . . human rights . . . without discrimination. . . .” Its Article 68 called for the establishment of a Commission on Human Rights. It should also be noted that in 1944 the U.S. prepared the initial plan for what became the U.N., and it included an international bill of rights. (Weissbrodt Book at 11-13.)
 The U.S. ratification of the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees implicitly ratified the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees that generally entered into force on April 22, 1954. The substance of the two treaties was discussed in an earlier post.
 This Convention’s Article I states,”Women shall be entitled to vote in all elections on equal terms with men,without any discrimination.”
 The Charter of the OAS proclaimed “the fundamental rights of the individual without distinction as to race, nationality, creed, or sex” (Art. 3(1) and the responsibility of each state in its development to “respect the rights of the individual and the principles of universal morality” (Art. 17). The Charter also established the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “to promote the observance and protection of human rights” and to prepare an “Inter-American convention on human rights” (Art. 106).
 It would be interesting to review the history of the U.S. ratification of these treaties, especially those with long periods before the U.S. became a party. I would be interested in comments by anyone who has done so or by anyone who finds errors in this summary.
From her home in Havana, Cuba, Yoani Sanchez has been courageously blogging her critical comments on many aspects of life in her country as noted in a prior post.
In January 2013, under Cuban’s new law granting Cubans increased ability to obtain passports, she received her Cuban passport. She was overjoyed by this development after she had been denied a passport 20 times over the last five years.
Upon receiving the great news that she would obtain a passport, she bravely said in her blog:
She intends to “continue ‘pushing the limits’ of reform, to experience first hand how far the willingness to change really goes. To transcend national frontiers I will make no concessions. If the Yoani Sánchez that I am cannot travel, I am not going to metamorphose myself into someone else to do it. Nor, once abroad, will I disguise my opinions so they will let me ‘leave again’ or to please certain ears, nor will I take refuge in silence about that for which they can refuse to let me return. I will say what I think of my country and of the absence of freedoms we Cubans suffer. No passport will function as a gag for me, no trip as bait.”
“These particulars clarified, I am preparing the itinerary for my stay outside of Cuba. I hope to be able to participate in numerous events that will help me grow professionally and civically, to answer questions, to clarify details of the smear campaigns that have been launched against me… and in my absence. I will visit those places that once invited me, when the will of a few wouldn’t let me come; I will navigate the Internet like one obsessed, and once again climb mountains I haven’t seen for nearly ten years. But what I am most passionate about is that I am going to meet many of you, my readers. I have the first symptoms of this anxiety; the butterflies in my stomach provoked by the proximity of the unknown, and the waking up in the middle of the night asking myself, what will you look like, sound like? And me? Will I be as you imagine me?”
On February 17th she plans a worldwide tour visiting Latin American (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico), North America (U.S. and Canada) and Europe (Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Switzerland and Germany).
I pray that there will not be any last minute move by the Cuban government to block her leaving the island. I look forward to her comments on Cuba during her visits to these countries.
Yoani, congratulations and God Speed on your journey!
The Covenant establishes an international minimum standard of governmental conduct for rights of self-determination; legal redress; equality; life; liberty; freedom of movement; fair, public and speedy trial of criminal charges; privacy; freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion; peaceful assembly; freedom of association; family; and participation in public life. The Covenant forbids “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;” slavery; arbitrary arrest; double jeopardy; and imprisonment for debt.
The Covenant went into force on March 23, 1976, in accordance with its Article 49(1), after 35 states had ratified or acceded to the treaty.
A year and a half later (October 5, 1977), the U.S. started its process for ratification of this treaty when President Jimmy Carter signed the Covenant on behalf of the U.S. at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City.
On that occasion the President observed that the Covenant was “concerned about the rights of individual human beings and the duties of governments to the people they are created to serve.” Parties to the Covenant, the President added, pledge, “as a matter of law, to refrain from subjecting its own people to arbitrary imprisonment or execution or to cruel or degrading treatment.” In addition, this treaty “recognizes the right of every person to freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the rights of peaceful assembly, and the right to emigrate from that country.” 
Over four months later (February 23, 1978) the next step in the U.S. process was taken. President Carter submitted the Covenant to the U.S. Senate and requested its advice and consent to ratification with reservations, understandings and declarations. He said,
“While the [U.S.] is a leader in the realization and protection of human rights, it is one of the few large nations that has [sic] not become a party to . . . [this Covenant and the other two U.N. treaties he transmitted]. Our failure to become a party increasingly reflects upon our attainments, and prejudices [U.S.] participation in the development of the international law of human rights. [This Covenant is] . . . based upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in whose conception, formulation and adoption the [U.S.] played a central role. . . . [This Covenant] treats in detail a wide range of civil and political rights. Freedom of speech and thought, participation in government, and others are included which Americans have always considered vital to a free, open and humane society.”
“The great majority of the substantive provisions of [this Covenant] are entirely consistent with the letter and spirit of the [U.S.] Constitution and laws. Wherever a provision is in conflict with [U.S.] law, a reservation, understanding or declaration has been recommended. The Department of Justice concurs in the judgment of the Department of State that, with the inclusion of these reservations, understandings and declarations, there are no constitutional or other legal obstacles to [U.S.] ratification.”
In 1979 the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held hearings on the treaty, but took no action. Therefore, the Senate as a whole did not consider the treaty at that time. Later Senator Clairborne Pell said that although “there was significant support for ratification [in 1979] . . . domestic and international events at the end of 1979 [the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis] prevented the Foreign Relations Committee from moving to a vote on the covenant after hearings were completed.” Nor was there a vote on the treaty during the Reagan administration (1981-1989), according to Senator Pell, because that Administration had no interest in ratifying this treaty.
This presidential attitude changed in August 1991, with the Administration of George H. W. Bush, who requested the Senate to give its advice and consent to ratification of the Covenant subject to proposed reservations, understandings and declarations substantially the same as those proposed by the Carter Administration in 1978.
In response the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on the treaty in November 1991, and on March 4, 1992, the Committee voted unanimously to report the treaty favorably to the entire Senate for its consideration. Its report stated, “The . . . Covenant . . . is one of the fundamental instruments created by the international community for the global promotion and protection of human rights. . . . In view of the leading role that the [U.S.] plays in the international struggle for human rights, the absence of U.S. ratification of the Covenant is conspicuous and, in the view of many, hypocritical. The Committee believes that ratification will remove doubts about the seriousness of the U.S. commitment to human rights and strengthen the impact of U.S. efforts in the human rights field.”
Soon thereafter (April 2, 1992), the U.S. Senate debated the treaty. In presenting the resolution supporting such action, Senator Pell, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. “plays a leading role in the international struggle to promote and protect human rights. However, failure to ratify the covenant has blemished our record and cast doubt, in some quarters, about the seriousness of our commitment to human rights. Ratification will reverse this situation. It will demonstrate that our commitment is serious and sincere and strengthen our voice as a champion of human rights. Ratification will enable the [U.S.] to participate in the work of the Human Rights Committee established by the covenant to monitor compliance. The rights guaranteed by the covenant are the cornerstones of a democratic society. By ratifying the covenant now, we have an opportunity to promote democratic rights and freedoms and the rule of law in the former Soviet Republics, Eastern Europe, and other areas where democracy is taking hold.”
With little debate the Senate, by a two-thirds vote of those Senators present, then gave its advice and consent to ratification of the Covenant with the following five reservations, understandings, four declarations and one proviso:
The five reservations (1) preserved the higher protection of free speech and association guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution; (2) reserved the U.S. right to impose the death penalty as punishment for individuals under the age of 18; (3) limited the ban on”cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” to the definitions in the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; (4) reserved the right to impose a criminal penalty in force at the time of an offense even if a lighter penalty is later prescribed; and (5) reserved the right to treat juveniles as adults in exceptional circumstances.
The five understandings stated that (1) distinctions based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or any other status are permissible if rationally related to a legitimate governmental objective; (2) compensation of victims for unlawful arrest, detention or miscarriage of justice are subject to reasonable requirements of U.S. law; (3) certain practices concerning accused and convicted individuals were preserved; (4) governmental responsibilities to criminal defendants were limited; and (5) the obligation of the U.S.federal government to enforce the Covenant in the federal system were limited.
The four declarations provided that (I) the Covenant was not self-executing; (2) states could not use the Covenant to reduce any higher standards of U.S. law; (3) the U.S. accepted the competence of the U.N. Human Rights Committee to resolve inter-State claims of non-compliance with the treaty; and (4) the right under Article 47’s right of all peoples to enjoy and utilize natural wealth and resources may be exercised only in accordance with international law.
The proviso stated that the Covenant did not require or authorize legislation or other action that was prohibited by the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S.
On June 5, 1992, President George H.W. Bush signed the U.S. instrument of ratification of the Covenant which, his signing statement said, “articulates the principles inherent in a democracy, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, equal protection under the law, and the right to liberty and security. By ratifying the Covenant, the United States is underscoring its commitment to these principles at home and abroad. We hope that our ratification of the Covenant will contribute to the fostering of democracy and human rights throughout the world.”
Three days later (June 8, 1992) that instrument of ratification was filed with the U.N. Secretary-General, thus marking the official date of U.S. ratification. This was nearly 26 years after the Covenant had been approved by the U.N.
Thereafter a number of other states filed objections to the U.S. reservations and understandings. 
Now 167 states are parties to the Covenant.
This account of the belated U.S. ratification of an important multilateral human rights treaty shows the complexity of the negotiation and adoption of such treaties and of their ratification by the U.S. There is a similar history of the U.S. ratification of (a) the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and (b) the Genocide Convention.
 See David Weissbrodt, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Joan Fitzpatrick, Frank Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy, and Process at 141-43 (4th ed. LexisNexis 2009).
 The ICCPR is based upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The Declaration, however, is only a resolution of the General Assembly. It is not a treaty that imposes international legal obligations on states and thus was seen from the start as a basis for subsequent treaties, including the ICCPR.
 Weissbrodt, United States Ratification of the Human Rights Conventions, 63 U. MInn. L. Rev. 35 (1978).
 Simultaneously President Carter submitted to the Senate: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms for Racial Discrimination, which President Gerald Ford had signed on September 28, 1966, and which the U.S. subsequently ratified on October 21, 1994. Two other human rights treaties also were submitted to the Senate by President Carter on February 23, 1978, but they have not yet been ratified by the U.S.: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which President Carter also had signed on October 5, 1977; and the American Convention on Human Rights, which he had signed on June 1, 1977.
 Weissbrodt, 63 U. Minn. L. Rev. at 54-77 (analysis and criticism of U.S. reservations, understandings and declarations).
As already reported in a prior post, the U.S. Senate on January 24th adopted modest reforms to its filibuster rule, and the initial reactions were mixed. Here are some additional reactions.
The Majority and Minority Leaders
The brokers of the actual reforms–Democratic Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader–issued statements afterwards.
Senator Reid said the reforms are “steps towards ending gridlock in the Senate, and making this body a more efficient place while still respecting the rights of the minority. Americans of all political stripes can agree that Washington is not working the way it should. We were elected to get things done for the middle class – not waste time with endless stalling tactics that cause even bills with broad bipartisan support to languish for weeks. These reforms will allow us to deal with legislation in a more timely fashion, and weaken the ability of those who seek to obstruct for obstruction’s sake”
Reid added, “If these reforms do not do enough to end the gridlock here in Washington, we will consider doing more in the future.”
McConnell, on the other hand, emphasized that the bipartisan compromise package ” avoided the nuclear option, and . . . [retained the rule] that any changes to the Standing Rules of the Senate still require 67 [two-thirds] votes.” He also expressed home “the Senate can return to the way it used to operate and that all of us will be able to participate more fully in the legislative process.”
Leaders for Stronger Reforms
Senator Jeff Merkley, one of the leaders for stronger reforms, recognized that the Senate as a whole had declared “the paralysis of the Senate is unacceptable.” The adopted reforms, he said, “are modest, and don’t address the core problem of the secret, silent filibuster, but they do include some important elements, providing flexibility on the motion to proceed and speeding up the confirmation process on nominations.”
“If these modest steps do not end the paralysis the Senate currently suffers,” Merkley added,” many Senators are determined to revisit this debate and explore stronger remedies,” and he would keep working to that end. “We have a responsibility to address the big issues facing our country. I’ll keep working with my colleagues to achieve that goal.”
In an interview, Merkley reiterated his commitment to pressing for additional reform if nothing much changes in this session of the Congress.
The other leader for stronger reforms was Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico. He said that although the adopted reforms were “not as strong what many of us have been advocating,” they did alter “the way we deal with nominations, conference committees and motions to proceed — all things I’ve been working toward.” Udall, therefore, was “supporting . . . [the] efforts to get a bipartisan agreement today,” but would “continue to fight for the stronger filibuster reforms my colleagues and I believe will make the Senate a more accountable institution.”
Udall also emphasized that the external infrastructure for Senate reform would continue and remain vigilant and ready to push for more action later if necessary.
I hope that these limited changes will make the Senate more functional.
But I am skeptical.
For example, in this new session of Congress Republicans are delaying a Judiciary Committee hearing on the President’s nomination of a very able lawyer to be a circuit court judge. The purported justification is their demand for information about the Government’s settlement of a case in which he had a minor role.
Another example is the limited changes’ failure to alter the filibuster rule for high-level presidential appointments. This week an appellate court held that President Obama violated the Constitution by making several recess appointments to the National Labor Board, which otherwise were subject to Senate confirmation, when the Senate was not really open for business, but rather in Potemkin Village illusions of sessions. According to the New York Times, this Republican senatorial practice and the court’s decision demonstrate how the Democrats’ “timidity” on reforming the filibuster rule “is being used against them.”
On January 24, 2013, the U.S. Senate adopted a bipartisan modest two-part reform of its filibuster rule. Both were adopted by over two-thirds of those voting and thereby complying with another part of its rules requiring a two-thirds vote to amend the rules.
This bipartisan reform package was brokered by Majority Leader, Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and the Minority Leader, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
The reform has two parts.
By a 78-16 vote, the Senate adopted the first part of the package. For only the two years of this session of Congress and by standing order only, the minority Republicans will have the right to make a minimum number of amendments during floor debate, but their ability to use filibusters to prevent debate on legislation will be limited. This part also will limit dilatory tactics on lower-tiered judicial and executive branch nominees.
The second part of the reform package was a permanent amendment to the Senate rules to allow prompt scheduling of legislation where there is a bipartisan consensus for passage and limit stalling tactics to prevent Senate conferees from meeting with their House counterparts to resolve differences in competing bills. This part was adopted by a vote of 86-9. 
This bipartisan reform eliminated the possibility of the Democratic Senators using the so called “constitutional” or “nuclear” option of changing the rules by a simple majority vote.
Reactions to the Reform
Thursday night President Obama immediately released a statement saying he was pleased the Senate had taken action to move routine measures along. He observed that in his last State of the Union address, he had “urged Congress to take steps to fix the way they do business. Specifically, I asked them to address the fact that a simple majority is no longer enough to pass anything – even routine business – through the Senate,”
The President continued, “At a time when we face critical decisions on a whole range of issues – from preventing further gun violence, to reforming our broken immigration system, to getting our fiscal house in order and creating good paying jobs – we cannot afford unnecessary obstruction.”
President Obama also noted that the reforms “are a positive step towards a fairer and more efficient system of considering district court nominees, and I urge the Senate to treat all of my judicial nominees in the same spirit.”
Washington political commentators suggest the following reasons for the adoption of these modest reform measures, rather than the “speaking filibuster” proposal led by Senators Jeff Markey and Tom Udall:
very few citizens care about the filibuster and its reform, and the activists who did were not effective in rallying public opinion;
virtually no individual senator– especially the Majority Leader Harry Reid–wants the Senate to be like the House of Representatives which operates by simple majority rule;
the current Majority Leader and other Democratic senators are pragmatists and realize that in the future, perhaps as early as 2015, they could be in the minority and do not want the Republican majority to ram things through by a simple majority vote;
the “talking filibuster” alternative option advanced by Senators Merkley and Tom Udall was seen by many as an ineffective idea; and
partial bipartisan reform now may lead to more reform later.
Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and a sponsor of one of the motions to amend the filibuster rule, on the other hand, was very disappointed in this result. He said that he previously had warned President Obama that if there were no serious reform of the filibuster rule, Obama “might as well take a four-year vacation.”
Senator Merkley, one of the leaders for the speaking filibuster proposal, said he was “disappointed with the package but noted the ‘growing momentum’ toward Senate reforms.” He “also vowed to continue pushing filibuster reforms if the Senate returns to its clogged, unproductive state of the past two years.”
The activists for reform were equally disappointed. The leader of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said, “This is a bad decision based on fear–a decision that will ultimately hurt millions of people who would have been helped by progressive bills that the Republicans are sure to filibuster.” The political director of CREDO opined, “It looks like Senator Reid got fooled again, but sadly it’s the American people who are going to pay the price.” Another citizen reformer noted, “It changes nothing on how we move forward.” Fix the Senate Now, a coalition for reform, said it was a “missed opportunity.”
 The first part of the reform was Senate Resolution 15, and its text and 76-16 roll call are found at Cong. Rec. S272 (Jan. 24, 2013).
 The second part of the reform was Senate Resolution 16, and its text and 86-9 roll call are found at Cong. Rec. S274 (Jan. 24, 2013).
 Senator Harkin’s proposal for amending the filibuster rule was defeated as was a proposed amendment to the rules offered by Senator Mike Lee (Republican of Utah). (Cong. Rec. S271 (Jan. 24, 2013).) The reform proposals offered on January 3, 2013 by Senators Tom Udall, Merkley and Lautenberg were not brought to a vote. In his remarks on the floor, Senator Carl Levin entered into the record what he described as a lengthy rebuttal of the claim that the Senate had the constitutional power to change its rules by a simple majority vote.