My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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DALLAS, Tuesday—The article I started to discuss in Monday's column—which appeared in the Chicago Tribune—goes on to take up, in connection with the Human Rights Commission's efforts to write two covenants—one on social and economic rights, and one on political and civil rights—a petition that has been received by the United Nation's agency asking "the right of incurable sufferers to euthanasia, or merciful death."

The writer states this was signed by several thousand Britains and Americans. He does not bother to reveal that there are thousands of petitions in the files of the Commission on Human Rights in the U.N. because there is no authorization for this agency to deal with any petitions. There are petitions, for instance, against various governments—among them against the Soviet Union and some against the United States.

But there is no authorization for the Human Rights Commission, as such, to do anything more than was set down as its work, namely, the drawing up first of the Declaration of Human Rights, which has been done. The declaration is something similar to our own Declaration of Independence—a statement of standards and aspirations for the people of the world as a whole instead of dealing with individual nations.

Naturally, the level of attainment is different in different nations but these goals were set down as common standards and common aspirations, and the declaration has no legal binding value. No government accepting the declaration is obligated to change its laws. All it has to do is to strive to attain these standards and to acquaint its people as well as possible with what is in the declaration.

The second piece of work given to the Human Rights Commission was the writing of a covenant or covenants, to be written in the form of treaties. Therefore, they would be legally binding on such states as accepted them and ratified them according to their constitutional processes.

For us in the U.S. that means that if our government votes for one or both of the covenants now being drafted in the Human Rights Commission, those covenants will be presented to the Senate for ratification in the way any other treaty is presented to the Senate. Without question, the Senate will consider these treaties with care and if there is anything unconstitutional in them they will either not ratify or they will ratify in part, with reservations.

The fear of Sen. John W. Bricker of Ohio that the Senate will accept an unconstitutional treaty seems rather ill-founded in view of the history of the Senate's action on treaties in the past. Senator Bricker is not the only one who has been concerned and alert to the obligations of the Senate not to ratify an unconstitutional treaty.

Our record on treaties ratified is not one of recklessness. In fact, some of our Secretaries of State, including John Hay, have remarked that perhaps the Senate was slightly overcautious. So, I think Senator Bricker need not fear that the Senate will suddenly develop looseness in regard to its serious responsibilities where treaties are concerned.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Dallas (Tex., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 28, 1952

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.