Multilateral Human Rights Treaties That Have Not Been Signed and Ratified by the U.S.

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.[1] They are the following (with the dates they generally went into force):

  1. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (3/23/1976);[2]
  2. Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (7/11/1991);[3]
  3. International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (7/1/2003);
  4. Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel. Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (6/22/2006);[4]
  5. International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (12/23/2010));
  6. Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture (2/28/1987); and
  7. Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (4/22/1994).

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.


[1] See David Weissbrodt, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Joan Fitzpatrick, Frank Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy, and Process at 138-39 (4th ed. LexisNexis 2009).

[2] 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.

[3] The Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR seeks the abolition of the death penalty.

[4] 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.

Supplement to the Multilateral Treaty Against Torture

The multilateral treaty against torture (Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment or “CAT”) has been examined.[1]

 

CAT also has a supplement (the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). It created the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture with a mandate to visit places where persons are deprived of liberty in the States Parties. This Protocol also requires States parties to establish an independent national mechanism for the prevention of torture at the domestic level with a similar mandate to inspect places of detention. The Protocol’s purpose, as set forth in its Article 1, is to establish “a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”[2]

The Protocol was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 18, 2002, and it entered into force on June 22, 2006.[3]

The Protocol, however, only has 61 States Parties (31.6% of U.N. members). The U.S. is not one of them. Here is the geographical breakdown of its States Parties:

  Yes No Total
Africa 11 36   47
Asia   6 45   51
Europe 26 19   45
Latin America/Caribbean 14 19   33
Middle East   4 11   15
North America   0   2     2
TOTAL 61 132 193

[1] See Post: The Multilateral Treaty Against Torture (Nov. 29, 2011).

[2]  U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Committee Against Torture, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat-one.htm.

[3] Id.