Senator Orrin Hatch (R–UT) delivered a broadside on the Senate floor last week to proponents of U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a United Nations human rights treaty signed by the Obama Administration in July 2009.
Senator Hatch analyzed the treaty in the manner that all treaties must be analyzed—evaluating whether the treaty advances U.S. national interests (it doesn’t). He weighed the costs and (alleged) benefits of the treaty and concluded, “I cannot support the CRPD because the cost to American sovereignty and self-government clearly outweighs any concrete benefit to Americans.”
Hatch’s measured, thoughtful speech defending American sovereignty stands in stark contrast to the treaty proponents’ appeals to raw emotion. For example, last December, Secretary of State John Kerry (then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) shrugged off the notion that ratification would empower a committee of disability experts in Geneva to erode American sovereignty:
That’s a threat to our sovereignty? That’s a price too high to pay to make sure that when American combat veterans who left their legs on a battlefield travel overseas, there’s a ramp in front of the building so they can enter and exit or use a bathroom? You tell those veterans that a committee’s advice is sufficient reason to deny them dignity and respect when they travel overseas.
Of course, Kerry provided not a shred of evidence that U.S. ratification of the CRPD would build a single wheelchair ramp or a single accessible restroom in any foreign country, ever. The fact is that U.S. ratification will not improve conditions for American veterans who travel or serve abroad.
Kerry and current committee chairman Bob Menendez (D–NJ) should know that there is no correlation between U.S. ratification of a human rights treaty and the improvement of human rights in foreign countries. After all, the U.S. has ratified several human rights treaties without causing such beneficent global results:
- The U.S. has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), but that has not resulted in greater respect for civil and political rights in other ICCPR member states, such as Ethiopia, Iran, Russia, Uzbekistan, or Vietnam, all of which were given the lowest rating of “Not Free” in Freedom House’s 2013 Freedom in the World report.
- The U.S. is also party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), but a recent study conducted by the World Values Survey identified several ICERD members as the least racially tolerant on the planet, including Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jordan, and Nigeria.
How is it that those countries are racially intolerant and flout political rights even though the U.S. has ratified the ICERD and the ICCPR? Because that’s not how human rights treaties work.
Hatch and the other 37 Senators who voted down the CRPD last December know that the treaty would not help Americans with disabilities and actually poses a threat to American sovereignty. It remains to be seen whether that firm message was received by Chairman Menendez.