Chicago Journal of International Law


Does international human rights law make a difference? Does it protect rights in practice? The importance of these questions for rights protection is obvious: the institutions of international human rights law deserve our energetic support only to the extent they contribute meaningfully to protection of rights, or at least promise eventually to do so. Moreover, at the moment these questions have added urgency. They underlie an ongoing debate, fomented in part by this Journal, on the extent to which the United States should be prepared to cede degrees of its national sovereignty to international human rights institutions, in return for their presumed benefits for rights protection. For example, should the US ratify the treaty to create an international criminal court for war crimes, at the risk, however slight, that Americans might be prosecuted before the Court? Similarly, should the US ratify human rights treaties with only a minimum of reservations, rather than, as now, accepting the treaties (if at all) only to the extent they conform to our domestic norms? And should we be willing to make human rights treaties enforceable against our federal, state, and local governments? The extent to which we should accommodate ourselves to these international organizations and treaties depends in part on whether they are likely to do any good in protecting rights globally. [CONT]