FOUNDATION: Unit V. International Human Rights in the Domestic US Context 3 of 7

Human Rights Treaties Becoming Part of US Law

President Bush addresses the United Nations

When the US officially becomes party to a treaty, it has an obligation to the other states that are parties to that treaty to abide by that treaty’s terms.

Most treaties are meant to become part of the national legal systems of the states involved. However, just because the US ratifies a treaty does not necessarily mean that it is directly applicable in US jurisdiction. That would depend on the wording of the treaty and/or court decisions. Until the treaty becomes part of US law, US citizens may not sue the US government or any other governmental authority for violating rights guaranteed under the treaty.
Click each step to see what the US must do to become party to a treaty
and to make the treaty’s guarantees part of US law.

Why does the US seem to tread so cautiously before agreeing to an international treaty?

Why would the US help draft and sign but not ratify a treaty? How does this behavior impact the international image of the US?

Why do you think the process of ratification is so complicated?

Finding US Law in Treaties
Agreements and US Law