Digest of United States Practice in International Law 2016

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 2016 Digest is available at the left in PDF format. Individual chapters are also available at the left. Documents excerpted in the 2016 Digest that are not readily available elsewhere can be accessed through the link at the left for the chapter in which the document is excerpted. The 2016 Digest provides a historical record of key legal developments in 2016. Acting Legal Adviser Richard C. Visek summarized the contents of the 2016 Digest in the Introduction, stating in part:

This volume includes key speeches Legal Adviser Brian J. Egan delivered during 2016. Mr. Egan spoke on the future of international agreements at Yale Law School, where Deputy National Security Adviser Avril Haines also spoke on the importance of treaties. He responded to the work of the International Law Commission on protection of persons in the event of disasters; identification of customary international law; and subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties. He also delivered a talk entitled “The Next Fifty Years of the Outer Space Treaty” at a space law symposium; addressed the International Bar Association on the subject of private international law; discussed international law, legal diplomacy, and the counter-ISIS campaign at the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law (“ASIL”); and spoke at Berkeley Law School on international law and stability in cyberspace.

In addition to Mr. Egan’s speeches, other representatives of the U.S. government explained U.S. international legal views on current world events in 2016. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that, in his judgment, ISIS is responsible for genocide in Iraq against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims, and for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities. The United States responded to papers China circulated after the decision in the arbitration between the Philippines and China on the South China Sea with a diplomatic note identifying contradictions between China’s claims and the international law of the sea. The United States also sent a diplomatic note to the Republic of the Marshall Islands regarding U.S. sovereignty over Wake Island. And the Obama administration issued its Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations. All of these enunciations of U.S. legal views contributed to efforts to promote understanding of and compliance with international law.

There were numerous developments in 2016 relating to U.S. international agreements and treaties at all stages, from negotiation to entry into force. The President transmitted eleven treaties to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification in 2016, including extradition treaties, two intellectual property treaties, several private international law treaties, maritime boundary treaties, and the Arms Trade Treaty. The Senate provided its advice and consent to ratification of seven treaties in 2016, including extradition treaties, mutual legal assistance treaties, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food an Agriculture, and the Convention on the Law Applicable to Certain Rights in Respect of Securities Held with an Intermediary (the “Hague Securities Convention”). The United States ratified and joined the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, and the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance in 2016. And on January 16, 2016, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran (“JCPOA”) reached its “Implementation Day,” when the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had satisfied the required nuclear commitments and the United States and European Union took steps to lift nuclear-related sanctions against Iran. The United States signed new extradition treaties with Kosovo and Serbia; an agreement “On the Protection of Personal Information Relating to the Prevention, Investigation, Detention, and Prosecution of Criminal Offenses” (“DPPA”) with the European Union; an asset sharing agreement with Colombia; several air transport agreements; and agreements pursuant to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on cultural property. The United States successfully led the way to renegotiate the South Pacific Tuna Treaty and amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (“HFCs”). And, the President also submitted to Congress for its review an Agreement for Cooperation with Norway Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.

In the area of diplomatic relations, the United States engaged with Cuba in claims talks, conclusion of an aviation arrangement, and amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, among other initiatives. As a reflection of Burma’s democratic transition, the United States terminated the national emergency with respect to Burma, which had provided the basis for economic and financial sanctions. Also in 2016, the President terminated the national emergency with respect to Côte d’Ivoire. And in 2016, the United States swore in its first ambassador to Somalia in a quarter century after recognizing the government of Somalia in 2013. The United States took several steps in response to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and increasing Russian harassment of U.S. diplomats overseas.

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Complete 2016 Digest of United States Practice in International Law
Front Matter