Digest of United States Practice in International Law

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Want to know the background on significant legal issues such as our ongoing involvement in the crisis in Syria, or on our support of UN General Assembly resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Iran, North Korea, and Syria, or about President Bush’s promise — back in 2002 — of “our enduring commitment to the important principles of the Geneva Convention. Consistent with American values and the principles of the Geneva Convention,” or perhaps about the “Immunity of Uruguayan Oil Tanker, Presidente Rivera,” way back in 1989?

Then, the Digest of United States Practice in International Law, providing “a record of the views and practice of the Government of the United States in public and private international law” may be just right for you.

The Digest traces its history back to an 1877 treatise by John Cadwalader, which was followed by multi-volume encyclopedias covering selected areas of international law. The Digest later came to be known to many as “Whiteman’s” after Marjorie Whiteman, the editor from 1963-1971. Beginning in 1973, the Office of the Legal Adviser published the Digest on an annual basis, changing its focus to documentation current to the year. Although publication was temporarily suspended after 1988, the office resumed publication in 2000 and has since produced volumes covering 1989 through 2011. A cumulative index covering 1989-2006 was published in 2007, and an updated edition of that index covering 1989-2008 was published in 2010.

The Department of State has just released the 2012 Digest of United States Practice in International Law, covering developments during calendar year 2012. It can be viewed here.

For earlier editions, back to 1989, please click here.

The 2012 Digest provides a historical record of key legal developments in 2012. Acting Legal Adviser Mary McLeod summarizes the contents of the 2012 Digest. Here are parts:

Significant legal issues arose in 2012 relating to ongoing United States efforts to address the crisis in Syria. The Digest discusses the U.S. designation of Syria for temporary protected status, actions at the Human Rights Council on Syria, U.S. and international acceptance of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, U.S. sanctions relating to Syria, and UN General Assembly and Security Council actions on Syria.

In 2012, the United States remained engaged in the development of international law by negotiating and concluding treaties. The administration worked to support ratification of the Disabilities Convention, which the Senate considered in 2012 but declined to give its advice and consent to by a vote of 61-38. Secretary Clinton testified before the Senate in support of U.S. ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”). The United States signed the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances and the UN Food Assistance Convention. The United States also became a party to the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships and transmitted to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification the Convention on the Law Applicable to Certain Rights in Respect of Securities Held with an Intermediary. In addition, the United States participated actively in the negotiation of the new UN Arms Trade Treaty.

U.S. government involvement in litigation and arbitration also contributed to the development of international law in 2012. In U.S. courts, the United States filed amicus briefs in two Hague Abduction Convention cases; opposed petitions for certiorari in two extradition cases; participated in litigation challenging the constitutionality of statutes implementing treaty obligations; and filed statements of interest and suggestions of immunity in several cases involving foreign sovereigns and heads of state. State and federal courts issued important decisions with international law implications, including: the Nevada Supreme Court’s remand of the death penalty case of Carlos Gutierrez due to the lack of consular assistance; the Fourth Circuit’s opinion that the definition of piracy under the law of nations is the definition contained in Article 15 of UNCLOS; and U.S. Supreme Court decisions that most of Arizona’s state immigration law provisions are preempted by federal law, and that only individuals—not corporations—can be liable under the Torture Victim Protection Act. The United States also made submissions to arbitral bodies, including a voluminous submission to the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in Case B/1, several submissions to NAFTA and CAFTA tribunals, and submissions in arbitral proceedings initiated by the Republic of Ecuador against the United States which resulted in dismissal of Ecuador’s claims for lack of jurisdiction.

This edition of the Digest also discusses activities in the UN and other multilateral organizations, domestic legislative and regulatory efforts with respect to international relations, and the conclusion of bilateral agreements. Among other things, the United States supported UN General Assembly resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Iran, North Korea, and Syria, and supported UN Security Council resolutions to address emerging and ongoing threats to international peace and security in a number of states around the world…The United States also concluded several important bilateral agreements in 2012, including, among others, a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, an immigration information sharing agreement with Canada, and a bilateral maritime law enforcement agreement with Samoa. Finally, the U.S. government also exhibited leadership in the world in initiatives with international scope. For example, the Obama administration launched the Atrocities Prevention Board and began implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.

Enjoy!

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Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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1 Comment

  1. WOW, so many agreements..so many councils…so many resolutions. Gives the impression we are actually busy. Thank God we don’t need congress for everything.

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