The United States and Human Rights: Paradoxes and Challenges
Codification in International Perspective- Selected Papers from the Second IACL Thematic Conference (Wen-Yeu Wang, ed. 2013)
17 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2019
Date Written: September 10, 2012
The slow ratification and incorporation of international human rights instruments by the United States appears paradoxical to the strong rights tradition of the nation, which dates back to the country’s founding. This essay surveys the role of human rights in U.S. law, the incorporation of international human rights law into the U.S. legal system, and the recent development of rights policy in the “war on terror” since 2001. The essay concludes that the U.S. record on human rights is generally strong, especially regarding property rights, religious freedom, and freedom of expression, but that there is room for improvement in several aspects of U.S. human rights policy — notably in the disparate incarceration rates for racial minorities, capital punishment, economic and social rights, and the treatment of non-citizens. The commencement of the war on terror has led to controversial practices criticized by human rights organizations including torture, extraordinary rendition, and unmanned drone attacks. Despite U.S. reluctance to embrace international human rights norms within its domestic jurisdiction, the United States adopts a leadership role in evaluating the human rights records of other countries and in promoting human rights worldwide. While President Obama has made some improvements in human rights policy and engagement with international human rights organizations, U.S. tactics in the counter-terrorism continue to trouble human rights experts. In conclusion, domestic politics, rather than international norms, appear to shape U.S. human rights policy.
Keywords: international law, international human rights, human right treaties, constitutional rights, constitutional law, federalism, American legal system, national security, war on terror, terrorism, Al Qaeda, September 11th, drone warfare, U.S. foreign policy
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