Forum on the Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties: Analyzing the State Department Memos

The New York Times, in a must-read story by Charlie Savage, provides the full text of two significant memos written by Harold Koh during his time as Legal Adviser of the State Department. The memos concern whether two human rights treaties, to which the United States is a party, apply extraterritorially. Just Security will host a Forum to discuss the NYT story and the memos. Commentators will include Jennifer Daskal, Daphne Eviatar, Marko Milanovic (who has written an excellent book on the topic), and Beth Van Schaack (whose law review article on the topic is discussed in the NYT report). The timing of Charlie’s story and the availability of the memos is auspicious. Next week the United States will appear before the United Nations Human Rights Committee to discuss US compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A major question concerns whether the ICCPR applies beyond US borders. Here are (word-searchable) texts of the two memos:

Memorandum Opinion on the Geographic Scope of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Memorandum Opinion on the Geographic Scope of the Convention Against Torture and Its Application in Situations of Armed Conflict

For earlier coverage of this topic, see two posts (here and here) by Beth Van Schaack. 

About the Author(s)

Ryan Goodman

Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2015-2016). You can follow him on Twitter @rgoodlaw.