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U.S. REPORT UNDER THE INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON 
CIVIL AND POLTICAL RIGHTS
JULY 1994


Article 5 - Nonderogable Nature of Fundamental 
Rights

The United States was founded on basic principles of 
human rights from which it cannot deviate.  In 
particular, the rights guaranteed in the U.S. 
Constitution, which substantially reflect the 
principles embodied in the Covenant, are the supreme 
law of the land.  These guarantees represent a 
foundation that can never be broken.  Congress and 
the states may protect rights to a greater extent, 
but never to a lesser extent than the Constitution 
provides.  In some instances, that foundation 
already provides greater protection than the 
Covenant.  Therefore, the United States could never 
restrict fundamental human rights on the pretext 
that the Covenant does not recognize such rights or 
recognizes them to a lesser extent.

Furthermore, as the Covenant has been declared non-
self-executing for purposes of U.S. laws, it could 
never be invoked in any judicial context to limit 
existing rights.  More specifically, with respect to 
actions taken by the executive branch and the 
Congress, the United States declared in ratifying 
the Covenant:

     It is the view of the United States that States 
Party to the Covenant should wherever possible 
refrain from imposing any restrictions or 
limitations on the exercise of the rights recognized 
and protected by the Covenant, even when such 
restrictions and limitations are permissible under 
the terms of the Covenant.  For the United States, 
Article 5, paragraph 2, which provides that 
fundamental human rights existing in any State Party 
may not be diminished on the pretext that the 
Covenant recognizes them to a lesser extent, has 
particular relevance to Article 19, paragraph 3, 
which would permit certain restrictions on the 
freedom of expression.  The United States declares 
that it will continue to adhere to the requirements 
and constraints of its Constitution in respect to 
all such restrictions and limitations.

The United States conditioned its ratification on 
this declaration to emphasize that it will continue 
to adhere to the constraints of its Constitution in 
respect to all restrictions and limitations of civil 
and political rights.  Furthermore, the United 
States also made this declaration to indicate as 
clearly as possible its belief that as a general 
rule States Party should resort to such restrictions 
only under the most unusual and compelling 
circumstances.
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