Chicago Journal of International Law


The United States practice of attaching a package of reservations, understandings, and declarations ("RUDs") to its ratification of international human rights conventions has been the subject of severe criticism by some human rights advocates. As Professor Henkin has said, "United States adherence to human rights conventions, after decades of resistance, should please all who support the international human rights movement. In fact, many are not pleased. For the United States has attached to each of its ratifications a "package" of reservations, understandings and declarations (RUDs), which has evoked criticism abroad and dismayed supporters of ratification in the United States. As a result of those qualifications of its adherence, US ratification has been described as specious, meretricious, and hypocritical." Professor Goldsmith's paper lays out a cogent argument in defense of the American practice. The present essay will consider some of the implications of Professor Goldsmith's article beyond the specific questions of US law. In particular, this essay will argue that, far from representing a net loss for the cause of human rights, RUDs actually play an important role in fostering the advancement of those rights. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR") will serve as an example.