The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has written an open letter to the United States president-elect 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 QC and Hans Corell, the letter highlights a US retreat from the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 1776 Declaration of Independence and the 1791 Bill of Rights. It also raises concerns over the decline of human rights and outlines human rights issues where the country now lags behind many other nations.
One particular concern is America’s refusal to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). The open letter says “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.”
On torture and rendition the letter criticises a “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 Institute also raises concerns about the death penalty as the US has the fifth highest rate of executions in the world. The IBAHRI co-chairs request the penalty only be used for the most serious crimes. They call for “judicial discretion in sentencing, and expressly eliminating execution for acts done by children”.
The letter also focuses on the US non-ratification of the most widely ratified treaty, 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. The Institute says “'The missing US ratification of this treaty stands out as an extraordinary lacuna in our common effort to empower women around the world.”
More than 80,000 individual lawyers and more than 190 bar associations and law societies in 160 countries are members of the IBA, including the New Zealand Law Society.