Human Rights Committee to Supreme Court: Good Work!

by Peter Spiro

The Human Rights Committee has released an advance copy of its report on US compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. From a quick skim, it looks highly critical. (Just like the PR-insensitive UN to issue something newsworthy like this on a late summer Friday.) A predictable number of observations address GWOT detainee issues, but subjects ranging from Katrina to the disenfranchisement of District of Columbia residents also make an appearance. (You can find a wire report here.)

As for a brief section on “positive aspects,” it’s striking that four of the five pats on the back involve decisions of the Supreme Court: Hamdan, Roper, Atkins, and Lawrence. (The fifth is for the adoption by DHS of national detention standards.)

This evidences an interesting common thread to those cases, confirmed by the HRC report: they could all predictably garner foreign relations benefits, insofar as they brought the US into conformity with international standards (or in the case of Hamdan, at least increasing the probability of such conformity).

By standing up to the executive or the states in either’s core areas of authority, the Court can now in some contexts be somewhat assured that it will be doing the country some good on the international front. This is Ed Swaine’s “judges as diplomats”; although Ed points out some risks in this role (in a draft he presented this spring at a University of Georgia IL colloquium), I think that in obvious cases such as these, where the international volume is turned way up against a US practice, the Court is appropriately taking it upon itself to improve our international position.

http://opiniojuris.org/2006/07/28/human-rights-committee-to-supreme-court-good-work/

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