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2 Chi. J. Int'l L. 121 (2001)
Does International Human Rights Law Make a Difference

handle is hein.journals/cjil2 and id is 129 raw text is: Does International Human Rights Law Make a Difference?
Douglass Cassel*
Does international human rights law make a difference? Does it protect rights in
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?2 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.'
In answering these questions, international human rights law must be
understood and evaluated as part of a broader set of interrelated, rights-protecting
processes. So understood, and taking into account its still early stage of historical
* Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law:
1. See, for example, Jack Goldsmith, Should International Human Rights Law Trump US Domesti, La,., 1
ChiJ Intl L 327 (2000).
2. See, for example, Council on Foreign Relations, Toward an International Criminal Coeurt (CFR 1999).
3. Compare Goldsmith, 1 ChiJ Intl L at 327 (cited in note 1), with Kenneth Roth, T: Cbrade of US
Ratification of International Human Rights Treaties, 1 ChiJ Intl L 347 (200D).
4. See Goldsmith, 1 ChiJ Intl L at 335-38 (cited in note 1).

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