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View Full Version : ACLU going to the UN - Good or Bad Idea?


Pepsi Classic
01-28-2004, 02:43 AM
Link: http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=14804&c=206

Do you think it is a good idea for the ACLU to go to the UN? I think it is a very bad idea. The ACLU is supposed to defend and protect the Constitution of the US. By going to the UN the ACLU is saying there is a higher authority than the US Constitution. If the ACLU wants to take this case (and they should) they should be fighting it in the US courts. The ACLU as defender of the Constitution should not go outside of Constitutional authority; they are not Amnesty International. I think international human rights principles are a good idea but this is not a something the ACLU should use. They should be worried about the US constitution. This action on part of the ACLU seeks only to weaken the US Constitution. If international human rights principles to change to a position of "No Human Rights", I don't want to see this precedent.

Zoe
01-28-2004, 03:36 AM
I agree with you that the ACLU is saying that there is something more important than the Constitution of the United States of America. Judging from the link you provided, they are saying that freedom and human rights are more important. I agree with them.

I believe that I am correct when I say that just because someone is within our borders, she or he does not necessarily have Constitutional rights. Should that mean that they have no rights at all?

Imagine that you and your family are visiting in France and the French decide to imprison all of you without charging you with any crime. The French Constitution might say that the French government can't do that. But in times of crisis, the French courts might decide that the French President knows best and that his authority should not be questioned even if it seems to contradict what is generally understood of the French Constitution. Are you saying that organizations concerned about civil liberties in France should not be able to protest to the United Nations about what has become of you and your family?

Marley23
01-28-2004, 03:41 AM
This action on part of the ACLU seeks only to weaken the US Constitution. If international human rights principles to change to a position of "No Human Rights", I don't want to see this precedent.
I don't follow this one bit. Since when is the international position "no human rights?" The ACLU is filing a complaint. Even if the UN agrees, it does not have the ability to enforce it or override the US Constitution. The ACLU is arguing the US isn't holding up its end of the bargain in the human rights department, that's it.

Pepsi Classic
01-28-2004, 04:09 AM
I don't follow this one bit. Since when is the international position "no human rights?" The ACLU is filing a complaint. Even if the UN agrees, it does not have the ability to enforce it or override the US Constitution. The ACLU is arguing the US isn't holding up its end of the bargain in the human rights department, that's

I am saying if the views of the international world change I do not want to see the US held to that standard. There is no real protection of internation principles. They can change at any time.

I agree with you that the ACLU is saying that there is something more important than the Constitution of the United States of America. Judging from the link you provided, they are saying that freedom and human rights are more important. I agree with them.

I agree that freedom and basic human rights are more important than the Constitution, but the ACLU is not a human rights organization. They are around to protect and defend the Constitution.

I believe that I am correct when I say that just because someone is within our borders, she or he does not necessarily have Constitutional rights. Should that mean that they have no rights at all?

The ACLU has supported the position that anyone in our borders has Constitutional protections. This the position they should continue to fight for, not using internatiuonal standards. Let Amnesty International or one of the other international human rights organizations fight that fight.

From the ACLU website:

It is true that the Constitution does not give foreigners the right to enter the U.S. But once here, it protects them from discrimination based on race and national origin and from arbitrary treatment by the government. Immigrants work and pay taxes; legal immigrants are subject to the military draft. Many immigrants have lived in this country for decades, married U.S. citizens, and raised their U.S.-citizen children. Laws that punish them violate their fundamental right to fair and equal treatment.

The ACLU has been one of the nation's leading advocates for the rights of immigrants, refugees and non-citizens, challenging unconstitutional laws and practices, countering the myths upon which many of these laws are based. Use the resources on this page to learn more and take action to protect the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Our latest news releases are listed to the left; actions you can take now are listed to the right, along with additional resources. The most recent immigrants rights features are included directly below.

UDS
01-28-2004, 04:20 AM
I agree that freedom and basic human rights are more important than the Constitution, but the ACLU is not a human rights organization. They are around to protect and defend the Constitution.:
No, the stated mission of the ACLU is

"to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

(Emphasis added.) In other words, its the rights and liberties they are defending, not the Constitution and laws. The rights and liberties are guaranteed by the Constitution and laws, but the ACLU is not confined to using the Constitution and laws to defend them.

I am saying if the views of the international world change I do not want to see the US held to that standard.
I'm not sure I follow you here. Suppose, hypothetically, international human rights standards alter and the use of torture to extract confessions ceases to be a breach of international human rights law. There will still be nothing in international human rights law which says that states <i>must</i> use torture to extract confessions, and it will still be contrary to US law to do so.

In other words, I don't see an "either/or" here. The US Constitution and the principles of International Law stand separately (although, of course, they may overlap to a considerable extent). The US should respect its consitutional human rights principles, even if International Law does not require it. It should respect its human rights obligations under International Law, even if the Constitution does not require it. What's the problem here?

Pepsi Classic
01-28-2004, 05:55 AM
No, the stated mission of the ACLU is

"to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

(Emphasis added.) In other words, its the rights and liberties they are defending, not the Constitution and laws. The rights and liberties are guaranteed by the Constitution and laws, but the ACLU is not confined to using the Constitution and laws to defend them.

You're right they protect the rights and liberties. But they protect right and liberties guaranteed under the Constitution.


In other words, I don't see an "either/or" here. The US Constitution and the principles of International Law stand separately (although, of course, they may overlap to a considerable extent). The US should respect its constitutional human rights principles, even if International Law does not require it. It should respect its human rights obligations under International Law, even if the Constitution does not require it. What's the problem here?

What if the international standard is not something the US is comfortable with? What if it becomes an international standard that it is a violation of human rights to punish adult from having sex with a minor unless the minor is under 12? The ACLU's mission is to protect rights under the Constitution, not international standards.

Marley23
01-28-2004, 06:03 AM
What if the international standard is not something the US is comfortable with? What if it becomes an international standard that it is a violation of human rights to punish adult from having sex with a minor unless the minor is under 12? The ACLU's mission is to protect rights under the Constitution, not international standards.
I say again what I said before: the UN is not the police. Members are not forced to abide by all of the UN's judgments. America will not be invaded for prosecuting adults who have sex with minors under 12. If the standard changes, America does not have to abide by it. It doesn't really have to abide by it now, but as far as the Constitution goes, I would say that international law owes a lot to our own Constitution.

Desmostylus
01-28-2004, 06:19 AM
Whilst I mostly agree with what you've been saying so far, I'd like to see a decent cite for this bit:...I would say that international law owes a lot to our own Constitution.

Marley23
01-28-2004, 06:22 AM
It wasn't a 'cite' comment, it was an opinion. I think in general, the rights enshrined in international law are also in the Constitution (not vice versa). I don't know about the specific process of the writing of the Geneva conventions.

Marley23
01-28-2004, 06:25 AM
Also, Pepsi, I think if the ACLU was arguing it weakens the US Constitution, they'd have a point. And it's not just a domestic issue, so I can see why they'd speak to an international body on the subject.

laigle
01-28-2004, 09:42 AM
The Constitution recognizes the legitamacy of treaties. We signed the UN charter. We've signed a number of treaties on human rights. Why shouldn't the ACLU complain if they think we violated the terms of those treaties? Seriously, I see nothing here but "The evil UN is gonna come get us with their black helicopters and chips embedded in peoples' brains!" International treaties are not some strange, new age, left wing notion. We sign them, we live up to them.

UDS
01-28-2004, 09:59 AM
What if the international standard is not something the US is comfortable with? What if it becomes an international standard that it is a violation of human rights to punish adult from having sex with a minor unless the minor is under 12? The ACLU's mission is to protect rights under the Constitution, not international standards.
Well, I'd worry about this when it happens.

Seriously, I think you're jumping at shadows. It is possible that US domestic standards might find themselves at odds with international standards . There's a case to be made, for example, that the US's rather free application of the death penalty is out of line with developing norms of international law. There's no doubt, however, that as long as the Supreme Court holds the practice of the states to be consistent with the US Constitution, as a matter of US law the states can continue to apply the death penalty as they wish, and invoking the norms of international law isn't going to get anyone very far.

But where (as is more usually the case) the norms of international law are consistent with the human rights principles reflected in the US constitution, why on earth shouldn't the ACLU, or anyone else, use the mechanisms and institutions of international law to support constitutional human rights principles? Are they supposed to ignore an avenue for defending human rights, or pretend it doesn't exist? Why on earth would they want to do that?

And how could it be said to undermine the US constitution? The most that could possibly be said is that it suggests that the mechanisms which the US constitution provides for enforcing its own princoples are deficient, if international law is found to provide more effective mechanisms. But even if that is granted, isn't the ACLU doing everyone a service by highlighting the deficient mechanisms of the US constitution, and by finding another way to defend constitutional human rights principles?

John Mace
01-28-2004, 12:44 PM
From the OP's cite:

"The ACLU will go where it must to seek justice for the men who were unfairly detained and deported by the U.S. government after September 11."

I think that says it all. It's a tactic they are using which is consistent with the overall objective of defending what they see as the intent of the US Constitution. I often don't agree with their interpretation of the constitution, but I see nothing wrong with this particualr tactic.

Northern Piper
01-29-2004, 10:30 AM
What if the international standard is not something the US is comfortable with? What if it becomes an international standard that it is a violation of human rights to punish adult from having sex with a minor unless the minor is under 12? The ACLU's mission is to protect rights under the Constitution, not international standards.International treaties don't apply to a country unless that country has signed on to them, as the U.S. has done with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is one of the documents that the ACLU is relying on in its complaint. If the U.S. becomes uncomfortable with the standards developing under that international treaty, it can always revoke its ratification. However, since the U.S. has signed the International Covenant, where's the problem in expecting the U.S. to comply with it?