Will the USA violate the Rights of the Child ?

On June 5, the Trump administration announced that it would restrict or cancel education, legal aid and playground recreation (such as the playing of soccer) for children held in “shelter” camps on our southern border.

President Donald Trump claims both the power and the necessity to do so based on:  (1) his imagined “unlimited executive privilege” (which does not exist in fact or law); (2) his declared “national emergency” on our southern border (which is denied by the U.S. Congress); and (3) the fact that our federal government already “pays too much for these children” (at the expense of tax breaks for the very wealthy.) Most soccer balls, by the way, are donated by private persons.

If Trump persists in punishing children in order to dissuade their parents and others from seeking asylum, the U.S., and Trump himself,  will be in violation of binding  international treaties and agreements including:  (a) the 1924 Declaration of the Rights of the Child, (b) the  UN Charter and 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (c) the 1989 Treaty Convention on the Rights of the Child (which the Trump administration still refuses to ratify); and most recently (d) the 1985 - 1997 “Flores Settlement” on the detention, fair treatment and rapid release of immigrant children. 

Under international law, states are bound by signed treaty obligations, and are required to prosecute any and all offenders including a head of state. This is also true under U.S. national law. How so? Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that “All Treaties made under the Authority of the United States shall be the Supreme Law of the Land.”  That seems clear enough.

The choice for President Trump becomes patently clear:  Removal of the announced violations of the Rights of the Child, or removal from office — one way or another. Which shall it be ?


Anthony Piel is a former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization.