With all the unfortunate discussion of whether the Geneva Conventions apply to this or that group of American prisoners, it occurred to me to wonder whether the whole thing wasn’t moot. After all, isn’t the United States a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
? According to Article 5, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” while Article 6 states that “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law,” and Article 9 says that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” (Articles 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 are also relevant.) Isn’t the U.S. government in blatant violation of the Declaration?
Well, yes. Unfortunately, however, the Declaration is merely that — a declaration of principles — and as such is not considered binding international law, even if the U.S. did vote for it.
The United Nations Association in Canada has a helpful FAQ on the Declaration, which explains, among other things, that it doesn’t have the force of law.
Which, I guess, just means there’s lots more work to do. But then, you knew that.