Friday, March 07, 2014

To the Water's Edge

Where do the obligations of the United States as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) apply? The Obama administration's deliberations on this question are the subject of an interesting piece by Charlie Savage in yesterday's New York Times.

Article 2(1) of the ICCPR states:
Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. (emphasis added)
As the article notes, it has been the policy of the United States since its ratification of the ICCPR to regard this clause as a limit on the extraterritorial reach of U.S. obligations under the Covenant. The George W. Bush administration extended the reasoning to the Torture Convention for obvious and unfortunate reasons. Savage notes that the Obama administration seems unlikely to change U.S. policy on this matter.