Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United States

Here is Article 8 of UDHR with my original commentary:

  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 8 makes a bill of attainder an illegal act internationally and protects all people from punitive treatment without a fair trial.

I am sorry to say that I had completely misread Article Eight, and I now offer a new understanding of how the United States abuses expats under this article.

Article 8 does not protect people against a bill of attainder, i.e., a legislative punishment of a citizen without the benefit of a trial.  Rather, Article 8 requires that that everyone have a means to file an effective grievance against the abuse of constitutional rights, i.e., access to “competent national tribunals”.

This does not appear to be something that is a “right” available to everyone.  It is possible, to be sure, to launch a lawsuit against a government or to appeal fines and criminal charges, but for that one requires deep pockets.  To my knowledge, there is no free service in the United States available to any person, rich or poor, which can address human rights abuses.  We have in Canada, Human Rights commissions, for example, to which any resident of Canada may file a grievance.

This means that the US government systematically abuse human rights without having to face to scrutiny.  Take the outrage of the Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) and its attendant fine structure.  This is a human rights abuse.  It abuses privacy clauses of 4th Amendment, the due process , self-incrimination, and double jeopardy clauses of the 5th Amendment, the venue and impartial trial clauses of the 6th Amendment, the right to a trial by jury for amounts exceeding $20 as provided by the 7th Amendment, and the excessive fines and  of the 8th Amendment.  Yet specialists are quick to tell you that challenging the constitutionality of the FBAR law is hazardous and expensive.  Phil Hodgen writes to OVDI victims:

Ponder this as you’re raging against the insane penalties handed out by the IRS like stale Girl Scout cookies: it is constitutional for the government to kill you.

Don’t waste your time thinking about this unless you’re willing to dump a couple of million bucks into a lawyer’s wallet to fight this up to the Supreme Court. And that lawyer is not me. I don’t have that skill-set.

Mention a constitutional argument against the OVDI or FBAR penalties and the IRS Commissioner is going to choke on his martini laughing at you.

In a free country, a citizen should have a tribunal which will hear human rights grievances–at least this is what Aritcle 8 of the UDHC requires.  But today in the United States, the officers of local, state and federal governments may even confiscate your money and and possessions, and the citizen must pay a lawyer to get be able to challenge these acts of civil forfeiture without due process.  Rights that are available only to the wealthy are not universal rights at all, but lofty ideals that don’t mean a thing in day to day life.  The prophet Amos wrote against the nation of Israel in his own day (Amos 2.7; NIV):

They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.

These words apply to any country, including the United States, where only the rich can afford justice.

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15 thoughts on “Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United States

  1. The US could care less about the UN International Declaration of Human Rights, to them:

    “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” – Thucydides, from History of the Peloponnesian War

    Short cut version – “Might makes right.”

  2. Senator Chuck Schumer is having another tantrum!

    If you renounce because you object to citizenship-based taxation, you are now an “economic tax dodger.” What were the Jews who wanted to leave Nazi Germany, “disloyal Germans.” Indeed in many cases their citizenship was revoked. Sound familiar?

    I’m sorry about the Senator’s ancestors pain with the Nazis, but it doesn’t excuse him taking a few pages out of Hitler’s book in terms of citizen management. Even the Nazis didn’t expect people to pay taxes once they left the Fatherland.

    Mr Schumer you can’t have it both ways. Entice foreigners to invest in the US with the promise of “tax free” income, and then in the same breath vilify US-expats and those who take the extreme step to renounce because they don’t want to be liable to the IRS because they live abroad and want only “one” taxmaster.

    Mr Schumer renounce citizenship-based taxation now. The US is odd man out in terms of taxation, and ex-pats will continue to blog against this unfair practice and renounce. You have to realise the US isn’t “that good” anymore. Mr Saverin did not break the laws, and the Congress has only itself to blame for this fiasco.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/chuck-schumer-eduardo-saverin-nazi-comparison-appalling_n_1524021.html

  3. Okay, that was a downer. 😦
    I was thinking about what first appeared to be irrational acceptance of banks around the world of FATCA which will surely lead to GATCA (i.e. their preparations for the Big Day). The expense of it doesn’t bother them — they will pass it onto their customers. The possible outing of the elite’s dubious accounts around the world doesn’t bother them — the elite are on the inside and they will protect their own. The misery created and the complexity don’t bother them — what misery they will say and who cares about the complexity, we have financial interests in the companies which will revamp our systems. Not sure how this fits in with Article 8 except that it is more “might makes right” I guess. I’m seriously thinking about a coffee can buried in the backyard but our pittance won’t put them off at all — it would just be one nano step for a (wo)man, one miniscule step for mankind.

  4. @John

    From the perspective of growing up in the UK what is so great about living in Boston or New York versus staying in the UK and living in London. I am sick and tired of British media commentators in New York and Boston who constantly stab the UK/Canada/Commonwealth in the back so they can ingragiate themselves with American tv audiences. Is Martin Bashir still paying taxes to HMRC(or the Pakistani tax authorities. Thats a low blow but I am going to make it anyways) as a UK “tax resident.”

  5. One other comment on Sen Schumer’s tirade today, he mentioned the Nazis persecuted people because of who their parents were etc. For 1st generation Americans especially, we didn’t ask to be born in the US and become a worldwide tax slave for the US government. Is this really any different than what the Nazis would’ve done?

  6. @Tim – Some Brits suffer from the exact opposite problem of Americans “we are the greatest nation on Earth” in thinking the US is the only place in the world were success beacons. However, the Brits enjoy running down the UK and always believing the grass is greener somewhere else. It’s somewhat of a national sport believing life is better anywhere else but the UK.

    Bashir’s comments or others don’t surprise me in the least. However when it all goes wrong abroad guess where they come back running to?

  7. Schumer deliberately demagogues and dissembles so that most listeners come away with the idea that Saverin evaded tax, rather than the reality of having paid everything due before leaving. He flat out lies. “Our proposal targets no single race, creed, or class”. Of course it does, it targets middle class and wealthy Americans. And “it doesn’t punish you for factors outside your control”. Of course it does, what control have you over where you are born or who your parents are?

    And perhaps most depressingly, exactly because of his heritage Schumer really should know better than to push this hysterical, mean spirited and vindictive narrative as if fact.

    Mr Schumer, you are an opportunistic hypocrite and a disgrace to your profession and your country. It is a mystery to me how you got elected. Please just shut up.

  8. One of Eduardo Saverin’s newest investments is in a company called Jumio which is growing faster than Facebook did in it’s early years. Schumer is going to have a stroke over that! How do you like FATCA now Mr. Schumer?

    Jumio, started nine months ago, is on course for $100 million in annual sales and is “highly profitable,” Saverin, a director at the Mountain View, California-based company, told the CHINICT technology conference in Beijing today.

    Jumio Is Growing Faster Than Facebook at the Start, Saverin Says

  9. @Watcher, You’re right, because of his heritage, Chuck Schumer should know better, but It seems to me that he and other congressmen are blinded by US exceptionalism that they unable to be self-critic. The US mentality is that it can do anything because it is always right, but when others do the same they are evil. Military actions are a clear example of this idea. US tax policy for expatriates is too similar to that of Eritrea, some communist countries, Nazi Germany and some Arab countries in the past toward expatriating Jews. As I mentioned before, it’s ironic that Carl Levin and Eduardo Saverin are also Jewish.

  10. All 3 of them are Jewish. My money’s on Eduardo.

    Jewish people do think differently. I don’t mean that in a negative way but trying to navigate their thought processes can be frustrating.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Eduardo’s actions are going to cause some major changes to US tax policy even if takes a new Republican administration to get us there.

    Eduardo will eventually be welcomed back as a hero and Schumer will be remembered as the clown.

  11. Schumer at age 61 is firmly planted in the post-WWII America era. An America with 50% of world GDP, could call most of the shots, and force countries into actions where they would’ve said NO.

    Well those days are changing and the next milestone for the US is sharing reserve currency status with either Europe or China or both probably before 2020.

    That will be the game changer, an America that has to live within its means, make hard choices rather than print its way out of trouble.

    Future Senators will have bigger fish to fry than worry about someone renouncing his citizenship, pays the taxes due up to that point, whose taxes due really has no impact on America’s fiscal problems.

    Wake up Congress you’re going to have to go back to the American people and announce taxes are going up, entitlements are being cut, and a substantial number of Senators and Representatives are going to be replaced by hostile voters.

    Eduardo will ride out this storm and will be in better shape than Senator Schumer in 5 years time.

  12. I would say that Article 8 of the UDHR does protect against bills of attainder if the constitution in the affected person’s country, or the country trying to impose some penalty, forbids bills of attainder. That is my reading of “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a8

    Also, remember Arcticle 9 “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

    And see Article 11 : ” (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
    (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.”

    The second section of Artilce 11 protects against ex-post-facto laws. Although I would guess that the IRS, in implementing Schumer’s bill, would argue that taxes on capital gains and any penalties are a “civil” matter.

  13. @Jeff Yes, indirectly your correct about Article 8; but that is not the crux of Article 8. The crux is that everyone has a universal right to challenge acts of the government which are unconstitutional in a tribunal. I am unaware that any such tribunal exists in the United States. So the United States is constant violation of Article 8.

    Basically, Article 8 requires that a “Rights Advocate Service” at very least exist for every aspect of the government. The IRS has a Tax Advocate Service that functions to some degree to mitigate the evils of the IRS.

    One way that the United States violates rights is by telling Canadians that they must travel to US on a US passport. This is an imposition of citizenship on people in our population who may not want US citizenship. They should take the following more diplomatic approach: (1) You may have lost your US citizenship, depending on what you wanted to do when you became a Canadian citizen; (2) If you decide to reclaim your right to US citizenship and to obtain a US passport, there are serious United States tax responsibilities that come with citizenship–make sure you are willing to fulfill them. By imposing citizenship on unsuspecting Canadian citizens, they are violating the rights of these people, especially because they do not inform the person of the onerous responsibilities of US citizenship for expats. It makes the United States in to a hideous monster that seeks to tax first and ask questions later.

  14. @petros Let me play devil’s advocate. When I read the word “tribunal” in UDHR I understand “court of law”. So to say that the US does not respect the UDHR in this particular regard, we would need to demonstrate that such “court of law” is somehow out of our reach. For me, such court would be out of reach. I do not have the funds to file a complaint in a US district court neither in whatever “home state” I might have, nor in DC (please repost the US statute that puts us “virtually” in DC). I live in a foreign country. Geographically and logistically speaking, it would be hard for me to pursue a claim in a US court, I am not a FATCAt, just a middle class person.

    n.b. This should be associated with our discussions on UN human rights complaints in another thread, to wit: http://isaacbrocksociety.com/2012/05/27/united-nations-human-rights-complaint-procedure/.

    I feel that your mention of “tribunal” above and your comment “I am unaware that any such tribunal exists in the United States. So the United States is constant violation of Article 8.” is motivated by a perception that, Article 8 might require that a Special Tribunal must be constituted for these issues, such as Canada Human Rights Tribunal http://www.chrt-tcdp.gc.ca/, deal being that you are a Canadian Citizen and proud of it.

    Let us clarify. My question to you is: whether or not some countries have founded a special tribunal, does Article 8 UDHR really mandate a seperate tribunal (as Canada and possibly other countries have), or would a court of law suffice if we could have facilitated access to it, and if it fulfills the obligations of Article 8 UDHR?

    Let me close this present response with a proposition. Should/could we at IBS come up with a table showing which countries that signed UDHR have a special tribunal to deal with Article 8 requirements?

    I am looking for volonteers here.

    Brockers?

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