Open letter calls on President-Elect Trump to address declining human rights in the United States

To mark Human Rights Day 2016, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has penned an open letter o the President-Elect of the United States Donald Trump, calling on him to reassert the US 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 US retreat from the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence and 1791 United States Bill of Rights; raises concerns over the decline of human rights in the US; and outlines a number of pertinent human rights issues where the country now lags behind many other nations, including:

  • Not being a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC)– The US has not ratified the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, the Rome Statute. 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 US 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 US accession to the Rome Statute.’
  • Torture and Rendition– The letter cites: ‘The lack of transparency by the US 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.’

Among other topics, the letter also focuses on the US non-ratification of the most widely ratified treaty in history: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. On the latter the letter states: ‘The missing US ratification of this treaty stands out as an extraordinary lacuna in our common effort to empower women around the world.’

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 US. The discussion took place at a session convened by the IBAHRI at the IBA Annual Conference in Washington DC, on 19 September 2016.



Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to read the open letter, available at:
  2. The International Bar Association(IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme(ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute(IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.


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