The Office of the Legal Adviser publishes the annual Digest of United States Practice in International Law to provide the public with a historical record of the views and practice of the Government of the United States in public and private international law. The complete 2017 Digest is available at the bottom of this page. The full text of key documents that are excerpted therein (and that are not readily available elsewhere) is available under the listing for the chapter in which the document is discussed. The 2017 Digest provides a historical record of key legal developments in 2017. Legal Adviser Jennifer Newstead summarized the contents of the 2017 Digest in the Introduction, stating in part:

…During most of this year, the Office was fortunate to be led by Principal Deputy Legal Adviser Richard Visek, and a number of excerpts from his remarks and presentations over the course of 2017 are included in this edition.

This volume features explanations of U.S. international legal views in 2017 delivered by representatives of the U.S. government. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the conclusion that ISIS is responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controls or has controlled, as well as crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these and other minority groups. Secretary Tillerson also spoke in 2017 on the crisis in Burma’s Rakhine State, conveying the U.S. view that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against Rohingya. U.S. Special Adviser Carlos Trujillo at the UN General Assembly’s Sixth Committee expressed the U.S. commitment to accountability for atrocity crimes, and support for international, regional, hybrid, and domestic mechanisms that pursue this goal. And, Acting Legal Adviser Rich Visek also commemorated the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Mr. Visek spoke at the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court, reiterating the United States’ long-standing and continuing objection to any ICC assertion of jurisdiction over nationals of States that are not parties to the Rome Statute, absent a UN Security Council referral or the consent of that State. Mr. Visek and Mark Simonoff, Minister Counselor for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, expressed U.S. views on the work of the International Law Commission in 2017, including the topics of crimes against humanity, provisional application of treaties, general principles of law, evidence before international courts and tribunals, immunity of state officials, protection of the atmosphere, peremptory norms of general international law, succession of states in respect of state responsibility, and protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts. The administration’s views were also conveyed in Congressional communications, including several regarding the domestic and international legal bases for the campaign against al-Qa’ida and associated forces, including against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

There were numerous developments in 2017 relating to U.S. international agreements, treaties and other arrangements. The President notified Congress of his intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). President Trump also announced the U.S. intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change but to begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Agreement or a new arrangement. Additionally, the Administration pursued entry into new international obligations in a variety of areas. For example, Mr. Visek testified before the U.S. Senate on five treaties under consideration that had previously been transmitted: extradition treaties with Kosovo and Serbia; maritime boundary delimitation treaties with Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia; and the UN Convention on the Assignment of Receivables in International Trade. The United States entered into new arrangements, including Minute No. 323 to the 1944 Water Treaty with Mexico, outlining joint measures to address water shortages. Four agreements on preventing and combating serious crime entered into force in 2017, with Chile, Romania, New Zealand, and Cyprus. The United States signed new air transport agreements in 2017 with St. Vincent and the Grenadines and with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in respect of Sint Maarten, and amended air transport agreements with Benin and Sri Lanka. The Minamata Convention on Mercury surpassed the requirement of 50 Parties for entry into force, and the Secretary of State signed the instrument of acceptance to join the 2012 amendments to the Gothenburg Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. The United States deposited its instrument of ratification for three regional fisheries conventions. The Republic of Cabo Verde concluded a new Status of Forces Agreement (“SOFA”) with the United States. And, the United States ratified the protocol for Montenegro to join NATO.

The United States was very active in its relations with Cuba, concluding a bilateral Joint Statement on Migration that ended the so-called Wet Foot-Dry Foot policy for Cuban migrants; a bilateral treaty to delimit the maritime boundary in the eastern Gulf of Mexico; a bilateral search and rescue agreement; a bilateral agreement to prepare for and respond to oil spills and hazardous substance pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida; a bilateral Law Enforcement Memorandum of Understanding; and also convening the sixth meeting of the Bilateral Commission. Later in the year, the United States ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, due to health-related attacks on embassy employees, and President Trump signed the National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba (“NSPM”). With respect to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“DPRK”), the Secretary of State designated the DPRK as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in November. In its relations with Russia, the State Department announced that it would require the closure of specified facilities in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco in response to Russia’s invocation of parity to reduce the size of the United States presence in Russia. Several provisions in the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act of 2017 (“CAATSA”) relate to, and provide for mandatory sanctions in connection with, Russia. In December, the President issued Proclamation 9683, “Recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel and Relocating the United State Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem.” The United States condemned the government of Venezuela in several ways including Executive Order 13808, “Imposing Additional Sanctions With Respect to the Situation in Venezuela.” And, recognizing the progress made by the government of Sudan under the Five Track Engagement Plan, including the cessation of aerial bombings and military offensives in Darfur, the United States revoked certain longstanding economic sanctions on Sudan.

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Front Matter

Download Digest 2017 [7 MB]

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future