Universal Human Rights Law in the United States

  • Mortimer N. S. SellersEmail author
  • Mortimer N. S. Sellers
Part of the Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice book series (IUSGENT, volume 30)


Universal human rights provided the primary legal justification for the American Revolution and have therefore been at the heart of the American law from the earliest years of the Republic. The inherent and inalienable rights of all human beings were cited in the Declaration of Independence of the United States, protected in the federal Bill of Rights and independently guaranteed by the separate constitutions of every state in the Union. American law and American lawyers consider support for universal rights to be the ultimate basis of all legitimate government, everywhere. So intimate is the connection between universal rights and the American legal tradition that in the eyes of the American government and courts most international declarations and covenants recognizing universal rights are simply restatements of existing United States law and established constitutional guarantees. This leads to a persistent and lingering suspicion of international authorities and tribunals that presume to revise or improve upon settled American understandings of human rights law. For the most part Americans view their federal courts as the most legitimate and accurate authorities on rights, because of their well-developed jurisprudence and perceived impartiality. As foreign and international tribunals develop deeper and more sophisticated rights traditions, American law and courts will take these more into account, as has already occurred in several recent Supreme Court decisions. Authority will flow to whichever officials and courts prove the most accurate in identifying and protecting universal human rights.


United States International Criminal Court International Criminal United States Constitution Rome Statute 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mortimer N. S. Sellers
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mortimer N. S. Sellers
    • 2
  1. 1.University System of MarylandBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Georgetown University Law CenterWashington, DCUSA

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