Why International Human Rights Matter in the United States

Jullia Park
November 7, 2013

The following post by Jullia Park ’14 is from the new International Human Rights Clinic blog:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” These famous words of Martin Luther King were repeated in the University of Chicago Law School classroom on October 30. On this day, Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program, spoke to students, academics, and experts on the importance of international human rights in the United States.

Jamil gave a number of reasons for why the US should promote international human rights domestically. He explained that US law is often inadequate in protecting people’s rights. For instance, to prevail on a discrimination case under US law, one must prove actual intent to discriminate. Under international human rights law, on the other hand, a showing of a disparate impact on a legal class (e.g. females, the disabled) is all that is necessary to make a discrimination claim, regardless of intent. A violation of human rights is often easier to establish under international human rights law than under US law. Evidently, international treaties are more holistic and more embracing of the “no person left behind” concept.

Jamil went on to explain that despite these justifications, international human ri