[discuss] Constructive responses to surveillance at the intl level (WAS Re: ICANN policy and "Internet Governance")

Nick Ashton-Hart nashton at ccianet.org
Sat Jan 11 19:11:33 UTC 2014

An excellent point - and I would add that when we see an Internet dimension brought into an existing, and long-standing discussion - human rights at the HCR comes to mind - we ought to avoid reinventing the wheel. We ought to find those who have the expertise and the relationships in those venues that think like we do (whomever the "we" is in that context) and work with them. We'll be a lot more successful if we do.

"Dr. Ben Fuller" <abutiben at gmail.com> wrote:
>This is very useful. The example shows the existing complexity and
>extent of previous work that has gone into of many of these matters
>like privacy, cyber crime, etc., that appear as concerns in in Multi
>Stakeholder discussions of Internet Governance. Many of the issues we
>may see as "new" because they now have an Internet dimension, may have
>already been discussed at length (minus the Internet dimension) within
>other institutional frameworks. For me the lesson is that when we have
>to deal with a lot of these non-technical matters in Internet
>Governance we need to do our homework and learn what has already been
>done so we can focus on those aspects of an issue that may (or may not)
>be exacerbated by the Internet and for which we may (or may not) be
>able to apply Internet related solutions.
>On Jan 10, 2014, at 6:15 PM, Peter H. Hellmonds
><peter.hellmonds at hellmonds.eu> wrote:
>> On 10/01/2014 12:32, Dr. Ben Fuller wrote:
>>> there is probably already an international treaty or resolution at
>>> https://www.treaties.un.org dealing with privacy of communications.
>> Thank you for the suggestion to check on an international privacy
>> treaty, Ben. It's been a very interesting exercise, even though I
>> to add the caveat that I am not a member of the legal profession, but
>> only an interested lay person.
>> Summary (for those who don't want to read my full and lengthy
>> There is such an international treaty, the ICCPR, it has been signed
>> ratified by the US Senate, but it does not create a law of the nation
>> that can be independently executed, and Congress has not passed any
>> enabling legislation. The US has already been notified by the UN HRC
>> that this is not ok, and a review will take place in March this year.
>> Full commentary below.
>> (Referenced URLs have been included at the bottom for better
>> The resolution on "The right to privacy in the digital age" that
>> and Germany proposed and which the General Assembly adopted at the UN
>> (1) was referring to such an international treaty dealing with
>> of communications, namely the International Covenant on Civil and
>> Political Rights (ICCPR).(2)
>> It has been noted by the US Senate that "The Covenant is part of the
>> international community's early efforts to give the full force of
>> international law to the principles of human rights embodied in the
>> Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter.
>> The Civil and Political Rights Covenant is rooted in western legal
>> ethical values. The rights guaranteed by the Covenant are similar to
>> those guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights."
>> Ben is right that the NSA does not have to directly pay attention to
>> such a treaty. However, through ratification in the US Congress,
>> (in theory) such treaties become part of the law of the nation.
>> In such a case, the President, who is the Chief of the Executive
>> of Government, and who takes an oath of office to protect the
>> Constitution (and the laws of the land), would need to tell his
>> executive agencies, including the NSA, to follow the law created
>> ratification of such a treaty and through follow-on enactment of
>> national laws giving power to such treaty stipulations.
>> However, here comes the caveat. While the US did sign and ratify that
>> treaty in 1992, they did also include a number of reservations,
>> understandings, and declarations. (3)
>> The first of the declarations states:
>> "(1) That the United States declares that the provisions of Articles
>> through 27 of the Covenant are not self-executing." (4)
>> As a clarification, the Senate added in its report on the
>> "For reasons of prudence, we recommend including a declaration that
>> substantive provisions of the Covenant are not self-executing. The
>> intent is to clarify that the Covenant will not create a private
>> of action in U.S. courts. As was the case with the Torture
>> existing U.S. law generally complies with the Covenant; hence,
>> implementing legislation is not contemplated." (4.1, page 20)
>> This means that the ratification does not create independent US law
>> could be pursued in a US Court, but only binds the US
>> This interpretation has been upheld in Court (5, 6), but is being
>> challenged by constitutional scholars. (7)
>> According to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth District:
>> "'Courts in the United States are bound to give effect to
>> law and to international agreements, except that a
>> agreement will not be given effect as law in the absence of necessary
>> authority.' Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law 111 (1987).
>> Neither the American Declaration nor the International Covenant is
>> self-executing, nor has Congress enacted implementing legislation for
>> either agreement." (6)
>> The general comment by the Human Rights Committee (1994) condemns
>> practice:
>> "Of particular concern are widely formulated reservations which
>> essentially render ineffective all Covenant rights which would
>> any change in national law to ensure compliance with Covenant
>> obligations. No real international rights or obligations have thus
>> accepted. And when there is an absence of provisions to ensure that
>> Covenant rights may be sued on in domestic courts, and, further, a
>> failure to allow individual complaints to be brought to the Committee
>> under the first Optional Protocol, all the essential elements of the
>> Covenant guarantees have been removed." (8)
>> And in 2006, the Human Rights Committee concluded its remarks about
>> reports by the US government, and under section C. Principal subjects
>> concern and recommendations makes specific mention of the NSA:
>> "[..] the Committee is concerned that the State Party, including
>> the National Security Agency (NSA), has monitored and still monitors
>> phone, email, and fax communications of individuals both within and
>> outside the U.S., without any judicial or other independent
>oversight." (9)
>> The HRC (2006) further recommends:
>> "The State party should review sections 213, 215 and 505 of the
>> Act to ensure full compatibility with article 17 of the Covenant. The
>> State party should ensure that any infringement on individual’s
>> to privacy is strictly necessary and duly authorized by law, and that
>> the rights of individuals to follow suit in this regard are
>respected." (9)
>> A review meeting scheduled for the 109th session of the UN HRC in the
>> second half of October 2013 has been postponed until March 2014 on
>> request by the USA citing the government shutdown as a reason. (10,
>> The next review on 14 March 2014 could become interesting, having the
>> NSA as a subject at sections 332ff of the US Report. (12)
>> In light of this, it appears to me that the US may perhaps be liable
>> international law to ensure the human and civil rights of its
>> and those of people from other nations. However, if any individual
>> his/her rights may have been violated by the US executive (e.g. NSA),
>> and presses charges in a US Court, such Court will refuse to make a
>> judgement, citing lack of jurisdiction under the circumstances of the
>> ratification with the given reservations and declarations.
>> The only way out could be to challenge this interpretation in the
>> Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of North Dakota in January 2004,
>> however, has already upheld the interpretation of the "not
>> self-executing" clause of the Senate ratification, summarizing a
>> of appelate court cases. (13) The (federal) US Supreme Court has to
>> knowledge not yet made a judgement specifically on that particular
>> clause in relation to the ICCPR.
>> What is known is an opinion of Chief Justice Marshall, writing in
>> v. Neilson, 27 U.S. 253, 314-15 (1829):
>> “Our constitution declares a treaty to be the law of the land. It is,
>> consequently, to be regarded in courts of justice as equivalent to an
>> act of the legislature, whenever it operates of itself without the
>> of any legislative provision. But when the terms of the stipulation
>> import a contract, when either of the parties engages to perform a
>> particular act, the treaty addresses itself to the political, not the
>> judicial department, and the legislature must execute the contract
>> before it can become a rule for the Court.” (14)
>> Perhaps we need to realize that laws and international treaties have
>> entered a new era and we need to continuously challenge and advance
>> human rights. I think this is the essence of the concluding remark by
>> Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the US Dept. of State, in his
>> at Georgetown Law in October 2012:
>> "Make no mistake: this is not your grandfather’s international law, a
>> Westphalian top-down process of treatymaking where international
>> rules are negotiated at formal treaty conferences, to be handed down
>> domestic implementation in a top-down way. Instead, it is a classic
>> of what I have long called “transnational legal process,” the dynamic
>> interaction of private and public actors in a variety of national and
>> international fora to generate norms and construct national and
>> interests. The story is neither simple nor static. Twenty-first
>> international lawmaking has become a swirling interactive process
>> whereby norms get “uploaded” from one country into the international
>> system, and then “downloaded” elsewhere into another country’s laws
>> even a private actor’s internal rules." (15)
>> URLs:
>> -----
>> (1) Draft of Resolution:  "The right to privacy in the digital age"
>> http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=%20A/C.3/68/L.45
>> (2) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
>> (2.1) http://www.hrcr.org/docs/Civil&Political/intlcivpol.html
>> (2.2)
>> (3) Wikipedia entry:
>> (4) US Senate Ratification (and reservations):
>> (4.1)
>> (4.2) Background on US ratification:
>> (5) US Court of Appeals (First Circuit) judgement including a
>> on non-self-execution of the treaty:
>> http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/87314.pdf (page 7)
>> and
>> (6) US Court of Appeals (Sixth Circuit) notes  (Footnote 134):
>> (7) Berkeley Law School: John C. Yoo, "Globalism and the
>> Treaties, Non-Self-Execution, and the Original Understanding, 99
>> L. Rev. 1955 (1999)"
>> (8) Human Rights Committee (1994) report (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.6):
>> http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.6
>> (page 5, para 12).
>> (9) Human Rights Committee (2006) concluding observations
>> (CCPR/C/USA/CO/3/Rev.1):
>> (10) Postponement of US review by UN HRC (2013)
>> http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CCPR/Pages/ReviewUSA.aspx
>> (11) Agenda for the 110th session of the UN HRC
>> (12) US Report (CCPR/C/USA/4) to the 110th session of the UN HRC
>> (13) Supreme Court of North Dakota decision
>> http://www.ndcourts.gov/court/briefs/20030317.ae1.htm
>> (14) US Chief Justice Marshall's opinion:
>> http://openjurist.org/27/us/253/james-foster-v-david-neilson (para
>> (15) Twenty-First Century International Lawmaking
>> http://www.state.gov/s/l/releases/remarks/199319.htm
>> -- 
>> Peter H. Hellmonds
>> <peter.hellmonds at hellmonds.eu>
>> OpenPGP public key: http://blog.hellmonds.net/contact/openpgp/
>> ---
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>Dr. Ben Fuller, Dean
>Faculty of Humanities, HIV and AIDS and Sustainable Development
>International University of Managment
>Windhoek, Namibia
>bfuller at ium.edu.na, ben at fuller.na
>http://www.ium.edu.na, http://www.fuller.na
>skype: drbenfuller
>discuss mailing list
>discuss at 1net.org

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