The international community has adopted minimum standards to govern the conduct of states. These are based on the precept that human rights are an international responsibility, not simply an internal matter. International human rights standards articulate the criteria against which the conduct of all states should be measured.

The relevant international treaties and other instruments include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention Against Torture), the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice and the UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty.

Although the USA has made a significant contribution to the development of the international system of human rights protection during the past 50 years, it has also declined to ratify key human rights treaties, has reserved the right not to implement important provisions of treaties it has ratified, and has refused to permit people within the USA to bring complaints of alleged violations to international bodies.

The international human rights obligations that the USA has declined to accept include a number specifically relating to children, in particular:

the USA reserved the right not to implement certain provisions of the ICCPR that protect the human rights of children, such as the prohibition on the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people aged under 18; the USA has not ratified the most important treaty for the protection of the human rights of children, the Convention on the Rights of the Child. One hundred and ninety-two governments have ratified the Convention. The only other UN member not to have ratified the Convention is Somalia.

The USA’s reluctance to accept international human rights treaties and standards denies US children rights and protections which governments in virtually every other country in the world have agreed to recognize.

Recommendation The USA should withdraw its reservations to the ICCPR and ratify without reservations the Convention on the Rights of the Child.