Monday, December 12, 2016
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has released an open letter that it sent to the President-Elect of the United States, Donald J. Trump, calling on him to reassert the United States as a leading model for championing individual liberty and human rights.
Signed by IBAHRI Co-Chairs Baroness Helena Kennedy and Ambassador (ret) Hans Corell, the letter highlights a U.S. retreat from the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence and 1791 United States Bill of Rights; it raises concerns over the decline of human rights in the United States; and it outlines a number of pertinent human rights issues where the United States now lags behind many other nations, including these issues:
- Not being a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC)– The United States has not ratified the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court. The open letter states: "Nearly two-thirds of the nations of the world are parties to this statute, including almost all of the United States’ NATO allies. The International Criminal Court is the future of international criminal justice, a field which the United States pioneered with the post-World War II Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals. The ICC tries the three core atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, issues which are particularly important to many Americans… We urge you to promote U.S. accession to the Rome Statute."
- Torture and Rendition– The letter cites: ‘The lack of transparency by the U.S. government, such as expressly opposing the right of the public to view footage of atrocities in Guantanamo Bay, and denying the occurrence of instances of rendition, runs counter to the international obligations the United States has publicly undertaken to uphold."
- The death penalty– The United States has the fifth highest rate of executions in the world. The IBAHRI Co-Chairs advocate: "Reducing the imposition of this penalty to only the most serious crimes, allowing judicial discretion in sentencing, and expressly eliminating execution for acts done by children, would be a positive step leading to a complete prohibition. This would place the United States in the forefront of human rights defenders."
The letter also focuses on the failure of the United States to join the most widely-ratified treaties in history: the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The open letter results from the deliberations of a panel of experts in the arena of human rights and international lawyers brought together to consider the situation of human rights in the United States. The discussion took place at a session convened by the IBAHRI at the IBA Annual Conference in Washington DC, on 19 September 2016, before the national elections in the United States in November.
Hat tip to Ambassador Hans Corell.