MSNBC was positively crackling with outrage yesterday that the U.S. Senate rejected the U.N. treaty for persons with disabilities. John Kerry, the treaty’s Senate shepherd, said it was “the saddest day of his 28 years in the Senate.”

He was flabbergasted that the Senate did not fall for the theater of having a wheel-chaired Bob Dole on the floor for the vote. And they endlessly repeated the unsupported claim that the other States Parties to the treaty will only begin implementing this treaty when the U.S. ratifies it.

There is a Burger King on the Alexanderplatz in Berlin that has bathrooms on a lower level accessible only by steep stairs. This, even though the Germans have ratified this treaty. Proponents want us to believe that Germans are waiting for U.S. ratification before putting in elevators.

My C-FAM colleague Susan Yoshihara has a terrific day-after piece in The Hill which takes apart some of the dire statements of treaty supporters.

Proponents of ratification failed to show how this would demonstrate U.S. leadership on this issue or for promoting a proper understanding of international law.

Senator McCain said, “Without ratifying this treaty, the U.S. is not eligible to serve on the Committee that oversees implementation.” This is certainly true. But if Members of Congress are sincere about helping other countries improve conditions for their disabled citizens and our citizens when traveling abroad, the UN treaty system is not the place they should be looking to wield U.S. influence.

Despite our best hopes for it, the UN treaty system is now in crisis. In February, the UN General Assembly launched the Intergovernmental Treaty Body Strengthening Process in an attempt to reform or overhaul the committees whose purpose they now deem uncertain.

Senator Kerry said this week that there is no danger in the treaty’s inclusion of undefined terms such as “reproductive health.” Tell that to the Colombians, whose high court overturned the country’s protection of the unborn, invoking the non-binding comments of UN treaty bodies. Tell it to the Peruvians who were found in violation of their international obligations under the UN civil and political rights treaty – because they protect their disabled unborn persons in law.

The Human Rights Committee – which the U.S. representative chaired at the time – called that protection “cruel and inhuman.”


Senator Kerry vowed yesterday to bring the treaty back “this winter.”

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