To the Senate of the United States:
With a view to receiving the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification, subject to certain reservations, understandings and declarations, I transmit herewith four treaties pertaining to human rights. Three of these treaties were negotiated at the United Nations:
—The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, signed on behalf of the United States on September 28, 1966.
—The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed on behalf of the United States on October 5, 1977.
—The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed on behalf of the United States on October 5, 1977.
The fourth treaty was adopted by the Organization of American States in 1969, and is open for adoption only by members of that Organization: The American Convention on Human Rights, signed on behalf of the United States on June 1, 1977.
I also transmit, for the information of the Senate, the report of the Department of State on the United Nations treaties and the Department's separate report on the American Convention.
While the United States is a leader in the realization and protection of human rights, it is one of the few large nations that has not become a party to the three United Nations human rights treaties. Our failure to become a party increasingly reflects upon our attainments, and prejudices United States participation in the development of the international law of human rights. The two human rights Covenants are based upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in whose conception, formulation and adoption the United States played a central role. The Racial Discrimination Convention deals with a problem which in the past has been identified with the United States; ratification of this treaty will attest to our enormous progress in this field in recent decades and our commitment to ending racial discrimination.
The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the American Convention on Human Rights. That Convention, like the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, treats in detail a wide range of civil and political rights. Freedom of speech and thought, participation in government, and others are included which Americans have always considered vital to a free, open and humane society. United States ratification of the Convention will give us a unique opportunity to express our support for the cause of Human rights in the Americas.
The great majority of the substantive provisions of these four treaties are entirely consistent with the letter and spirit of the United States Constitution and laws. Wherever a provision is in conflict with United States law, a reservation, understanding or declaration has been recommended. The Department of Justice concurs in the judgment of the Department of State that, with the inclusion of these reservations, understandings and declarations, there are no constitutional or other legal obstacles to United States ratification. The reports of the Department of State on these four treaties describe their provisions and set forth the recommended reservations, understandings and declarations.
Should the Senate give its advice and consent to ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, I would then have the right to decide whether to make a declaration, pursuant to Article 14 of the Convention, recognizing the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to receive and consider communications from individuals. Such a declaration would be submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.
Should the Senate give its advice and consent to ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, I intend upon deposit of United States ratification to make a declaration, pursuant to Article 14 of the Covenant. By that declaration the United States would recognize the competence of the Human Rights Committee established by Article 28 to receive and consider "communications to the effect that a State Party claims that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Covenant."
Should the Senate give its advice and consent to ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights, I intend upon deposit of United States ratification to make a declaration pursuant to Article 45 of the Convention. By that declaration the United States would recognize the competence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights established by Article 33 to receive and examine "communications in which a State Party alleges that another State Party has committed a violation of a human right set forth in this Convention."
By giving its advice and consent to ratification of these treaties, the Senate will confirm our country's traditional commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad. I recommend that the Senate give prompt consideration to the treaties and advice and consent to their ratification.
The White House,
February 23, 1978.