Human Rights

International Law Section Policy

Below is a list of international policies adopted by the ABA House of Delegates. Please be advised that members must follow the policy procedure and usage guidelines outlined in the American Bar Association’s Constitution and Bylaws, Rules of Procedure of the House of Delegates. The specific procedures are available on the policy homepage.

Human Rights

Statute of Limitations for Serious War Crimes. Urges all countries not to apply statutes of limitation with respect to 1) genocide, 2) crimes against humanity, and 3) serious war crimes.

UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.  Encouraging the United States Department of State and the United Nations and its member states to support the ongoing processes at the United Nations and the Organization of American States to strengthen protection of the rights of older persons, including the efforts and consultations towards an international and regional human rights instrument on the rights of older persons.  8/11

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Urges the United States to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 02/10
Implementation Letter

The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine.  Endorses the Responsibility to Protect doctrine set forth in the 2005 United Nations World Summit Outcome Document, under which states have a responsibility to protect their own and other populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity and also endorsing the report, Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers, by the joint Genocide Prevention Task Force of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other entities. 08/09

International Criminal Court – Darfur. Urges the United States Government to support the Darfur peace accord signed on May 5, 2006; and to support the work of the International Criminal Court in investigating and prosecuting the individuals responsible for crimes in Darfur, Sudan, the humanitarian work of the United Nations in Darfur, Sudan, the peacekeeping efforts of the African Union, and any eventual peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations in Darfur, Sudan. 8/06

Policy on the UN Human Rights Council | Report. Supports fundamental reform of the UN human rights process and the establishment of a Human Rights Council in place of the UN Human Rights Commission. Recommends that the Council give priority to fulfilling its mandate to protect and promote fundamental human rights and supports further improvements in the human rights system at the UN. Encourages the U.S. Government to adopt and promote these recommendations as a program for reform of the UN human rights system. 05

Torture. Condemns any use of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon any person within the custody or under the physical control of the U.S. government (including its contractors) and any endorsement or authorization of such measures by government lawyers, officials and agents. Urge the U.S. government to comply with both U.S. laws and international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and related customary international law. Advise the U.S. government to ensure that all foreign persons captured, detained or interned by the U.S. are treated according to lawful U.S. standards and are not turned over to another government believed to subject its prisoners to torture or other degrading treatment. Encourage the President and Congress to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate U.S. detention and interrogation practices. 8/04

Detainees. Opposes the incommunicado detention of foreign nationals in undisclosed locations by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and urges protection of the constitutional and statutory rights of immigration detainees by using five guidelines set forth in the resolution. 8/02

Detainees. Opposes the involuntary transfer of detained immigrants and asylum seekers to facilities that impede an existing attorney-client relationship. Detained immigrants and asylum seeks should not be transferred to distant locations and detention space should not be contracted for or constructed in remote areas where legal assistance generally is not available for immigration matters. 2/01

Secret Evidence. Opposes the use of “secret evidence,” evidence that is presented to the trier of fact in camera and ex parte, in immigration proceedings, including but not limited to: (1) using secret evidence to depart noncitizens; (2) denying immigration benefits to noncitizens based on secret evidence; (3) refusing to release on bond noncitizens based on secret evidence; and (4) denying admission to returning lawful permanent residents, people who have been paroled into the United States, and asylum seekers, based on secret evidence. Where there are legitimate national security concerns, the noncitizen and the court or the adjudicator should, at a minimum, be provided with an unclassified summary of the classified information, prepared in accordance with appropriate judicial standards and supervision, that preserves the individual’s ability to confront the evidence and prepare a defense. 2/01

Convention on the Rights of the Child. Urge the U.S. to expeditiously ratify the Optional Protocol to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts. (00M106A) 7/00

Convention on the Rights of the Child. Urge the U.S. to expeditiously ratify the Optional Protocol to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. (00M106B) 7/00

Child Labor . Urge the U.S. to work with the U.N. and the International Labor Organization to promote the abolition of economic exploitation of persons under eighteen years of age by adopting and enforcing laws that a) regulate the employment of children, and b) eliminate the abduction, trading and selling of children, and their employment under slavery-like conditions. 8/96

Platform for Action. Supports the focus of the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in September 1995, on the role of law in promoting the equality, equal protection and equal access to opportunities and benefits for women, and affirms the importance of legal literacy to the functioning of democracies and the exercise of human rights by all individuals in society and supports the Platform for Action's provisions calling for the integration of a gender perspective into development assistance programs generally, and in particular, supports the integration of such a perspective into the programs for law development and law reform around the world, including those programs receiving technical legal assistance from the American Bar Association. 2/96

Platform for Action. Commends the United Nations and its Member States for the Declaration and the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in September 1995, and in particular, for the progress achieved at the Conference in advancing the human rights of women and girls, including its recognition that women's rights are human rights, its reaffirmation of the universality of human rights, and the recognition that violence against women is a violation of human rights and urges international organizations, including the UN, to implement the items of the Platform. 2/96

Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Reaffirm support for the ratification by the United States of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and support, in principle, the development of an optional protocol to the Women’s Convention providing for an individual right of petition as called for in the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women. 2/96

Refugees from Cuba and Haiti. Urge U.S. government to take special measures to protect the rights of Cuban and Haitian refugees detained in camps under U.S. control, including due process, access to independent legal counsel, humanitarian living conditions and adequate medical care. Insist that U.S. lawyers be permitted to visit with any such refugee requesting legal counsel for the purposes of counseling them. 2/95

Human Rights Generally. Urge U.S. Government to take certain steps to advance the promotion and observance of international human rights with emphasis on (a) strengthening the post of the Commissioner for Human Rights; (b) supporting establishment of special regional commissioners for protection of minority rights where such commissioners do not currently exist; (c) helping to increase U.N. resources for promotion of democracy and strengthening the rule of law; (d) expediting ratification of important U.N. conventions relating to the protection of human rights and enacting legislation to facilitate removing reservations to various human rights treaties that have been ratified; (e) supporting the appointment of women to senior positions in the U.N. system; (f) supporting strengthening the system of Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups by providing them with sufficient resources and staff, and allowing them to investigate human rights abuses within their jurisdiction and on their own initiative; and (g) working to institutionalize better relations between the U.N. and NGOs to better reflect and utilize NGOs in norm creation and in more systematic scrutiny of state compliance, and to protect NGOs providing humanitarian assistance. 8/94

Human Rights and the U.N. Recommend that the U.S. government advance the promotion and observance of international human rights by supporting the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, encouraging the establishment of special regional Commissioners, increasing U.N. resources for the promotion of democracy and the rule of law, expediting the ratification of relevant U.N. conventions, supporting the appointment of women to senior positions in the U.N., strengthening the system of Special Rapporteurs and Workings Groups, and institutionalizing the relationship between non-governmental organizations and the U.N. system. 8/94

American Convention on Human Rights . (1)Reiterates its support, originally declared by the House of Delegates in 1979, for the ratification by the Unites States of the American Convention on Human Rights, and its support for the enforcement of the judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  (2) Should immediately convene a working group of representatives from interested Associations entities and affiliated organizations, whose final work product will require approval of the Board of Governors or the House of Delegates, to work with the Executive Branch and the Senate in reviewing and updating the reservations proposed by the Carter Administration, and in evaluating whether the United States should accept the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  6/94

Convention on the Rights of the Child . Endorse in principle the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child subject to eight Reservations, Understandings, and Declarations aimed at promoting U.S. ratification. These qualifications reaffirm the U.S. government’s jurisdiction and right to certain practices, such as the regulation of the practice of religion to the extent that it is constitutional, the incarceration of certain children within adult correctional facilities even if it is not in the “best interests of the child,” and the separation of a child from his or her parents against their will under certain circumstances. Also confirms that the Convention imposes no legal obligations on the U.S. regarding the voluntary interruption of pregnancy and cannot be interpreted as affecting any U.S. laws related to such interruptions. 2/94

Hague Conventions. Urge the Senate to give its advice and consent to the ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation with Respect to Intercountry Adoption (adopted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law in 1993), and the Congress to enact implementing legislation to permit the U.S. to participate in this Convention. 2/94

Bosnia-Herzegovina. Urge the U.S. government and the U.N. Security Council to investigate, prosecute and punish, if necessary, persons who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in Bosnia‑Herzegovina, and offer ABA assistance to identify lawyers, law professors and judges who would be willing to participate in such a process. 10/92

Honduran Human Rights. Call upon the U.S. government to urge the government of Honduras to comply fully and immediately with the August 1990 judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Velàsquez and Godínez Cruz cases, ordering Honduras to compensate for monetary losses caused by its failure to pay two prior damages judgments. 8/92

Refugees' Health Concerns. Urge the U.N. to (a) provide adequate international protection for refugee health needs; (b) review the adequacy of current international agreements to address the health and related humanitarian needs of refugees and displaced persons; (c) strengthen the protection of refugee health under existing international agreements; and (d) develop international agreements, and other mechanisms, to protect the health needs of all other displaced persons. 8/91

Convention on the Rights of the Child. Support in principle the ratification by the U.S. of the provisions of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, and recommend that the ABA immediately convene a working group of Association representatives to work with the Executive Branch and Senate on the identification and clarification of issues related to the possible reservations that might be considered as part of the ratification process. 2/91

Hong Kong Bill of Rights. Support the adoption of a Bill of Rights for Hong Kong, which fully guarantees those civil and political rights, after July 1, 1997, which are currently enjoyed by the residents of Hong Kong, as anticipated by the newly enacted Basic Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Call upon the governments of the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China to give effect in local law, enforceable after July 1, 1997, of provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Encourage the Chinese government to allow free movement of persons to and from Hong Kong, and the U.S. government to use its influence to promote the continuance and growth of democratic institutions in Hong Kong. 2/91

Human Rights in Iran. Deplore the persistent, gross violations of human rights (such as the mass summary executions, torture, and other inhuman punishment of political and other prisoners, the persecution of certain religious communities, and gross denials of fair trial rights in political cases) committed by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; urge the new leadership of Iran to protect basic human rights, ensure fair procedures in political cases and to eliminate torture and other inhuman punishment of prisoners; and urge the U.S. government to urge the Government of Iran to (1) recognize and protect basic human rights; (2) adhere to U.N. procedures for the resolution of human rights violations; (3) accept a U.N.-sponsored delegation to investigate conditions in Iranian prisons; and (4) accept an international delegation of lawyers and jurists to observe Iranian judicial proceedings and determine whether defendants’ rights are being safeguarded. 8/8

Human Rights and Multilateral Development Banks. Urges U.S. government to support the establishment of a human rights department within each multilateral development bank of which it is a member other than the International Monetary Fund, to provide expertise during the pre-project review and appraisal stage allowing the banks to consider (1) the effect of proposed loans and investments on human rights in a country; (2) the effect of human rights observance in a country on the purpose or likely success of the proposed loans or investments; and (3) the relationship between human rights observance in a country and economic development in such country. 8/89

Chilean Human Rights. Deplore the interference by the Chilean government with the independence of its judges and lawyers, and the arrest, prosecution and detention without charge and attempted assassination of lawyers who represent individual clients in human rights cases. Call upon Chile to honor U.S. extradition requests over the 1976 assassinations of Letelier and Moffitt, and to investigate fully and to bring to justice all persons responsible for violations of fundamental human rights, including the 1986 killing in Chile of Rodrigo Rojas, a Chilean national and U.S. resident. Urge the Government of Chile to restore basic human rights by eliminating the practice of vigilante assassinations, arbitrary detention and torture, and by restoring the full jurisdiction of civilian courts and the independence of judges and lawyers. 8/87

Right to Food. Acknowledge the existence of a fundamental right to food – the right to a nutrionally adequate diet – for every person throughout the world, and urge the U.S. government to make the right to food a principal objective of U.S. foreign policy. 8/86

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Urge the U.S. to promptly sign and ratify this convention. 2/86

Torture. Support federal legislation to (1) establish a federal right of action by both aliens and U.S. citizens against persons who, under color of foreign law, engage in acts of torture, extra-judicial killing or prolonged arbitrary detention; (2) authorize suits by both aliens and U.S. citizens who have been victims of torture, extra-judicial killing or prolonged detention, under color of foreign law, wherever these acts occur and expressly provide federal court jurisdiction over these suits; and (3) amend the immigration laws to permit the deportation from the United States any alien who, in his or her official capacity, took part in the torture of another person under color of law. 8/85

Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Urge ratification of the Convention, subject to: (1) a reservation to preserve federal-state divisions of authority; and (2) a declaration that the Convention's substantive provisions are not self-executing. 8/84

Apartheid . Oppose South African policy of apartheid and its various manifestations as inconsistent with international treaty obligations and the international Rule of Law. Support actions by the U.S. government, international organizations and other nations opposing apartheid and its various manifestations. 2/85

American Convention on Human Rights. Support accession of the United States to the American Convention on Human Rights and urge the Senate to ratify the Convention, subject to reservations recognizing that nothing in the Convention requires or authorizes the United States to enact legislation to or otherwise restrict the right of free speech as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, that the fairness doctrine as interpreted under the U.S. Constitution meets the requirements of Article 14, and that the second sentence of paragraph 1 of Article 4 does not apply to lawful abortions. 8/79

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Support ratification of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, subject to several understandings, declarations and one reservation recommended to the Senate by the Departments of State and Justice, including the declaration that the Covenant does not derogate from the equal obligation of all States to fulfill their responsibilities under international law nor can it restrict the right of free speech as protected by the U.S. Constitution. 2/79

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Support ratification of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, subject to several understandings, declarations and reservations recommended to the Senate by the Departments of State and Justice, including the protection of the right to free speech and the right to impose capital punishment. 2/79

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Support U.S. accession to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination subject to certain understandings and reservations, including the protection of the right of free speech. 8/78

Helsinki Accords. Support those who have challenged their governments to comply with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Agreement of 1975 and who have been monitoring and reporting the condition of human rights in their countries. Call upon participants of the 1977 Belgrade Conference and all citizens of the 35 countries that signed the Helsinki Agreement to ensure faithful compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Agreement as well as the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights. 2/78

Zionism. Rejects categorically and specifically the legal basis for and assertion by the U.N. General Assembly Resolution of November 10, 1975, on Zionism, and deplores the appeal inherent in said Resolution to the basest of human frailties (anti-Semitism) rather than moving to clarify the common interests of all peoples to co-exist on the basis of mutual respect consistent with the world rule of law. 8/76

Genocide Convention. Support ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by the Senate subject to three understanding and one declaration, including the understanding that the Convention will not affect the right of any state to bring to trial before its own tribunals any of its nationals for acts committed outside the state. 2/76

Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirements of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. Recommend that the U.S. accede to the  Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, of October 5, 1961 [527 U.N.T.S. 189]. Urge U.S. ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation with Respect to Inter-country Adoption. 2/75

Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labor. Recommend that the U.S. take no action with regard to this convention. 8/67

Convention on the Political Rights of Women. Oppose U.S. accession to this convention. 8/67

Human Rights Generally . Support U.S. promotion of “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms” for all people within all countries, through the U.N. Encourage U.N. recommendations and treaties on human rights. Oppose, in principle, accession by the U.S. to, and ratification of, any international covenants which seek to enforce the protection of human rights which lie essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the U.S. itself. 8/67

Slavery Convention. Support U .S. ratification of the Supplementary Slavery Convention. 8/67

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