Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network

Human Rights Defenders

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1



"We the Peoples of the United Nations, determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small..."

—United Nations Charter

The Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Treaty Affairs
serves as the principal U.S. government repository for U.S. treaties and other international agreements. The treaty office advises other offices under the Legal Adviser, other Department bureaus (including posts overseas), and other government agencies on all aspects of treaty law and procedure, including constitutional questions, and provides guidance and assistance in the authorization, drafting, negotiation, application, and interpretation of hundreds of agreements annually. It also responds to treaty-related inquiries from Congress, academia, members of the public, and officials of foreign governments and international organizations.

The treaty office oversees the Department's compliance with the statutory requirements of 1 U.S.C. 112a and 112b to report international agreements other than treaties to Congress and to publish international agreements. (Under U.S. law, treaties are those international agreements that receive the advice and consent of the Senate.)

The office publishes Treaties in Force (TIF), which details the over 10,000 U.S. treaties and international agreements in force as of January 1 of each year, and is charged with publication of treaties and international agreements in the Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS).

United States of America Obligations for Human Rights under International Law

United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders A/RES/58/178 of 22 December 2003 The United Nations Charter and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 8 March 1999

 CAT - ratified  Oct. 21, 1994 The UN Convention against Torture

ICERD - ratified Oct. 21, 1994 The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

ICCPR - ratified June 8, 1992  The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 

The Palermo Protocol - ratified

The Geneva Conventions or Aug. 12, 1949 and additional protocols I and II - all ratified

OP-CRC-SC - ratified Dec. 23, 2002 (art. 3 para 1 and 4 para 1)

OP-CRC-AC ratified Dec. 23, 2002

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the universal Declaration of Human Rights, without distinction of any kind, such as race, creed, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

—Principle 1, ICPD Programme of Action

International and Human Rights Infrastructure

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In 2006, CAT recommended that the USA ensure that the Convention applies at all times, whether in peace, war or armed conflict and the provisions of the Convention expressed as applicable to "territory under the State party's jurisdiction" apply to all persons under the effective control of its authorities. 

The Committee against Torture (CAT) invited the USA to reconsider its intention not to become a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  CRC made a similar recommendation. 

As of July 12, 2010, the United States does not have a national human rights institution accredited by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.  CERD recommended that the US consider the establishment of a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.  CRC and th Working Group of experts on people of African Descent made similar recommendations. 

CERD recommended that the State ensure a coordinated approach towards the implementation of the Convention at the federal, state and local levels.  CAT noted that the USA had a federal structure and had an obligation to implement the Convention against Torture in full at the domestic level.  Likewise, CRC recommended strengthening coordination in the areas covered by OP-CRC-SC, both at the federal and state levels.  

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the right to life and freedom of association and expression, should be protected from violations not only by State agents, but also private persons or entities. Human Rights Committee, general comment No. 31 on article 2 of the Covenant on the nature of the general legal obligation imposed on States parties to the Covenant, 26 May 2004.

A/RES/58/178 of 22 December 2003 The United Nations Charter and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 8 March 1999, adopted the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, known as the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and subsequent resolutions.

The United States has a responsibility in relation to actions and omissions of non-State actors Article 12, paragraph 3, of the Declaration, also reiterated by numerous human rights bodies, the Human Rights Committee and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

UN CAT, Article 1. 1 “For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”


The Statute of Rome

The Statute of Rome

Under the Rome Statute (International Law) "Enforced disappearance of persons" means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.”

The Statute of Rome had included rape in its definition of crimes against humanity, but the Foca rape case made that language a reality.  After the court's decision in the Foca case, one commenter noted that, "Now we say rape is a crime, a crime against humanity, or a war crime or a constituent part of genocide."  The ICC Statute is important because it expands the coverage of crimes against women to more than just rape.  The ICC statute also makes clear that such crimes as sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization and sexual violence are all punishable under international law.

It is pertinent to review “The right of torture survivors to reparations as a matter of international law.” Chorzow Factory Case (Germany v Poland), 1928, PCIJ, ser. A, no. 17, p. 47.

"We all know that human rights cannot just be transplanted as external principles into individuals or their communities. Human rights principles must be internalized by each individual, women and men, and must be absorbed and expressed in their own ways and within the positive aspects of their cultural values and beliefs. In order for this to happen, women must believe in human rights and must believe that these rights will protect them and not expose them in a battle against the society. They do weigh the social costs of entering into conflict as opposed to the benefits coming from the status quo. Women will claim their rights if they know there is a support system that will protect them from the reaction of their own communities. This support system should certainly include some of those who hold the keys to the power structures—religious, community and traditional leaders."

—UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya A. Obaid

Obligations of US Attorneys and officials of the US Department of Justice:

42 U.S.C. ' 13031 All Federal law enforcement personnel have obligations under State and Federal law to report suspected child abuse.

A crime victim  also file an administrative complaint if Department employees fail to respect the victim’s rights. The Attorney General must take and “investigate complaints relating to the provision or violation of the rights of a crime victim” and provide for disciplinary sanctions for Department employees who “willfully or wantonly fail” to protect those rights. (18 U.S.C. ' 3771(f)(2))

Universal instruments

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984

Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 2000, and Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the Convention

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, 1993 


Regional instruments

African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1981

American Convention on Human Rights, 1969

Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, 1994

European Convention on Human Rights, 1950

European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes, 1983


International standards

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OP-CAT)

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners

Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women

Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment

Principles on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Palermo Protocols

There are three protocols that are referred to jointly as the Palermo Protocols, or are sometimes incorrectly referred to individually as the Palermo Protocol.

The Palermo Protocols are three protocols adopted by the United Nations in 2000 in Palermo, Italy, together with the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. They are:

  • the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; and
  • the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.
  • the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime



These protocols and convention fall within the jurisdiction of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Witness Protection - International Organized Crime

Witness Protection

Witnesses are the cornerstones of successful criminal justice systems. Protecting them from intimidation or threats against their life because of cooperation with law enforcement or judicial authorities is critical to the maintenance of the rule of law. Furthermore, witness protection programs are considered a key tool in the dismantling of organized crime networks. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (TOC Convention) calls upon state parties to take appropriate measures to protect witnesses in criminal proceedings from threats, intimidation, corruption or bodily injury, and to strengthen international cooperation in this regard.

UNODC has developed a series of tools to support Member States develop and operate special programs to support protect witnesses of crimes. They include:

1) The UNODC "Good Practices in the Protection of Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings Involving Organized Crime". The good practices which were launched in February 2008 provide a comprehensive picture of available witness protection measures and offer practical options for adaptation and incorporation in the legal system, operational procedures and particular social, political and economic circumstances of UN Member States. They have been developed in a series of regional meetings with the active participation of expert representatives from law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial authorities of Member States. They reflect experience from different geographical regions and legal systems, together with existing literature, previous and ongoing work by UNODC as well as other international and regional organizations.

The good practices identified take a holistic approach to witness protection. They examine a series of measures that may be undertaken to safeguard the physical integrity of people who give testimony in criminal proceedings from threats against their life and intimidation. These measures provide for a continuum of protection starting with the early identification of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses, moving through the management of witnesses by the police and enactment of measures to protect their identity during court testimony and culminating with the adoption of the exceptionally severe measures of permanent relocation and reidentification.

In the development of the good practices, UNODC consulted with more than 60 Member States and international organizations such as Europol, Eurojust, International Criminal Court, International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Interpol, SECI Regional Center for Southeast Europe, Sierra Leone Special Court as well as UNAFEI and UNICRI.

Full text of the manual (pdf). Spanish version (pdf), Russian version (pdf), French version (pdf), Arabic version (pdf).

United Nations Office of Drug Control

UNODC has launched a new strategy on the treatment of drug dependence to promote and support evidence-based and ethical treatment policies worldwide. Treatnet promotes diversified, effective and quality drug dependence treatment and rehabilitation services, including HIV/AIDS prevention and care.

Treatnet is currently active around the world with drug dependence treatment service improvement projects in Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, South America and South-East Asia. UNODC has published an informational TREATNET Brochure in all languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

UN Treaties on Crime

United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is a legally-binding instrument through which States parties commit to taking a series of measures against transnational organized crime. These include the creation of domestic offences to combat the problem, the adoption of new, sweeping frameworks for mutual legal assistance, extradition, law enforcement cooperation and technical assistance, and training.

United Nations Convention against Corruption

In its resolution 55/61, the General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was desirable. The text of the Convention was negotiated during seven sessions held between 21 January 2002 and 1 October 2003. The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly on 31 October 2003.

Drug-related treaties

Commentary on the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961: English French Spanish

Commentary on the Protocol Amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961: English French Spanish

Commentary on the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971: English French Spanish

Commentary on the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988: Arabic Chinese English French Spanish Russian

The three major international drug control treaties are mutually supportive and complementary. An important purpose of the first two treaties is to codify internationally applicable control measures in order to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, and to prevent their diversion into illicit channels. They also include general provisions on trafficking and drug abuse.

Terrorism-related treaties

International conventions and protocols

Global Initiative on Primary Prevention of Substance Abuse

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo Buscaglia

Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network


P.O. 42700 

Washington, DC 20015

MedicalWhistleblowers (at)


"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."  Confucius

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt- Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910