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Digest of United States Practice in International Law 2007


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The Office of the Legal Adviser is pleased to announce the publication of the Digest of United States Practice in International Law for calendar year 2007. In order to assist readers in locating the full text of documents that are excerpted in Digest 2007 and accessible elsewhere, the volume includes citations to Internet or other public sources. Documents that are not readily available in hard copy or retrievable elsewhere in electronic format are available through the listing here.

In his Introduction to the 2007 Digest, John B. Bellinger, III, Legal Adviser for the Department of State, commented:

I am pleased to introduce the Digest of United States Practice in International Law for 2007. This year’s Digest reflects the broad range of legal issues that engaged the Department of State and other parts of the U.S. government during the year.

In 2007, the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere continued to raise novel and important legal issues. The conflict with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, in particular, presents the question of how to deal with transnational terrorists that do not fit neatly within existing legal frameworks. My colleagues and I continued to pursue an extensive bilateral and multilateral dialogue with our international counterparts with a view to developing a common legal approach to these issues. In addition, litigation in U.S. courts during the year addressed questions regarding the appropriate legal framework applicable to detainees held by the United States.

In the area of human rights law, the United States provided extensive submissions to UN bodies, including reports on U.S. implementation of the two protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and of the Convention on the Elimination of All Racial Discrimination, as well as follow-up responses on implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture. The United States also submitted observations on UN Human Rights Committee General Comment 31 on the ICCPR, a report on the non-refoulement obligation under the Refugee Convention and Protocol, and views on responding to religious defamation.

In U.S. courts, the Executive Branch worked to implement the decision of the International Court of Justice requiring that certain Mexicans on death row in the United States obtain review and reconsideration of their convictions and sentences in light of Vienna Convention violations. We also continued our efforts, not yet finished, to obtain Senate approval of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the accompanying 1994 Agreement. At the same time, the United States issued a new policy for the repression of piracy and acted to preserve its freedom of navigation rights by
protesting infringements by other countries.

It was an active year for U.S. treaty practice generally. In 2007, the President transmitted to the Senate for advice and consent a number of important multilateral treaties. These include treaties addressing nuclear terrorism, safety of maritime navigation, protection of nuclear material, pollution from land-based sources and activities, and bilateral defense trade cooperation. In addition, important treaties on child adoption, extradition, maritime conservation, and the law of war entered into force during the year. The United States also signed many new agreements, including those on air transport, classified information sharing, and access to airline passenger-name records with the European Union, and a multilateral convention on recovery of family support maintenance.

The United States remained engaged in efforts to restore and preserve peace in trouble spots around the world, and continued efforts in support of the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We maintained our active role in resolving outstanding
nonproliferation issues with North Korea and Iran, and reached agreement on nuclear cooperation with Russia.

The United States continued to be a major participant in international arbitrations in the WTO and NAFTA systems and supported the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Immunity of foreign governments and their officials continued to
be an active issue in U.S. courts. In one of two cases raising questions of immunity in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that U.S. courts have jurisdiction over suits to establish the validity of a tax lien on real property owned by a foreign sovereign.

The Digest reflects the commitment of the Office of the Legal Adviser to providing current information and documentation on a timely basis that reflects U.S. views in various areas of international law. It remains, in the truest sense, a collaborative undertaking, requiring the sustained effort of the attorneys and paralegals who work in the office. We continue to value our rewarding collaboration with co-publishers International Law Institute and Oxford University Press. Comments and suggestions from readers are always welcome.


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