Universal Human Rights in the Law of the United States

30 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2010 Last revised: 14 Oct 2010

Date Written: March 12, 2010


This article discusses the relationship in United States law between State, Federal and international authorities on universal human rights. All U.S. State constitutions and the Federal Constitution recognize the “inherent” or “inalienable” rights of humanity. Yet despite having long accepted the binding force of universal human rights, United States courts and public officials have been hesitant to recognize non-U.S. authorities when identifying, interpreting, or enforcing these rights in practice. The U.S. government and courts view most international treaties and declarations concerning universal human rights as simple restatements of existing constitutional guarantees. United States courts and public officials have generally weighed foreign evidence of the requirements of universal human rights according to the legitimacy, importance, and probative value of the source. The undemocratic and illiberal nature of many international and foreign institutions makes it unlikely that the United States Federal or State legal systems will cede final control over such questions to non-U.S. or multinational authorities at any time in the near future.

Keywords: universal human rights, rights, constitutional rights, states rights, inherent rights, inalienable rights, legitimacy, democracy, liberalism

JEL Classification: B3, K19, K33, K39, N4, N41, N42

Suggested Citation

Sellers, Mortimer Newlin Stead, Universal Human Rights in the Law of the United States (March 12, 2010). American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 58, 2010, University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1569553 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1569553

Mortimer Newlin Stead Sellers (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

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