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)

Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-09-04

17 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2019

See all articles by Leila N. Sadat

Leila N. Sadat

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: September 10, 2012

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Sadat, Leila N., The United States and Human Rights: Paradoxes and Challenges (September 10, 2012). Codification in International Perspective- Selected Papers from the Second IACL Thematic Conference (Wen-Yeu Wang, ed. 2013); Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-09-04. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2144849 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2144849

Leila N. Sadat (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
314-935-6411 (Phone)
314-935-5356 (Fax)

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