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Executive Agreements Authorized by Treaties

Executive Agreements Authorized by Treaties

Arbitration Agreements.—In 1904 and 1905, Secretary of State John Hay negotiated a series of treaties providing for the general arbitration of international disputes. Article II of the treaty with Great Britain, for example, provided as follows: “In each individual case the High Contracting Parties, before appealing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, shall conclude a special Agreement defining clearly the matter in dispute and the scope of the powers of the Arbitrators, and fixing the periods for the formation of the Arbitral Tribunal and the several stages of the procedure.”414 The Senate approved the British treaty by the constitutional majority having, however, first amended it by substituting the word “treaty” for “agreement.” President Theodore Roosevelt, characterizing the “ratification” as equivalent to rejection, sent the treaties to repose in the archives. “As a matter of historical practice,” Dr. McClure comments, “the compromis under which disputes have been arbitrated include both treaties and executive agreements in goodly numbers,”415 a statement supported by both Willoughby and Moore.416

414 W. McClure, supra at 13-14.

415 Id. at 14.

416 1 W. Willoughby, supra at 543.

Agreements Under the United Nations Charter.—Article 43 of the United Nations Charter provides: “1. All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security. 2. Such agreement or agreements shall govern the numbers and types of forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of the facilities and assistance to be provided. 3. The agreement or agreements shall be negotiated as soon as possible on the initiative of the Security Council. They shall be concluded between the Security Council and Members or between the Security Council and groups of Members and shall be subject to ratification by the signatory states in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.”417 This time the Senate did not boggle over the word “agreement.”

The United Nations Participation Act of December 20, 1945, implements these provisions as follows: “The President is authorized to negotiate a special agreement or agreements with the Security Council which shall be subject to the approval of the Congress by appropriate Act or joint resolution, providing for the numbers and types of armed forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of facilities and assistance, including rights of passage, to be made available to the Security Council on its call for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security in accordance with article 43 of said Charter. The President shall not be deemed to require the authorization of the Congress to make available to the Security Council on its call in order to take action under article 42 of said Charter and pursuant to such special agreement or agreements the armed forces, facilities, or assistance provided for therein: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed as an authorization to the President by the Congress to make available to the Security Council for such purpose armed forces, facilities, or assistance in addition to the forces, facilities, and assistance provided for in such special agreement or agreements.”418

417 A Decade of American Foreign Policy, S. Doc. No. 123, 81st Cong., 1st Sess., 126 (1950).

418 Id. at 158.

Status of Forces Agreements.—Status of Forces Agreements, negotiated pursuant to authorizations contained in treaties between the United States and foreign nations in the territory of which American troops and their dependents are stationed, afford the United States a qualified privilege, which may be waived, of trying by court martial soldiers and their dependents charged with commission of offenses normally within the exclusive criminal jurisdiction of the foreign signatory power. When the United States, in conformity with the waiver clause in such an Agreement, consented to the trial in a Japanese court of a soldier charged with causing the death of a Japanese woman on a firing range in that country, the Court could “find no constitutional barrier” to such action.419 However, at least five of the Supreme Court Justices were persuaded to reject at length the contention that such Agreements could sustain, as necessary and proper for their effectuation, implementing legislation subsequently found by the Court to contravene constitutional guaranties set forth in the Bill of Rights.420

419 Wilson v. Girard, 354 U.S. 524 (1957).

420 Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1, 16-17 (1957) (plurality opinion); id. at 66 (Justice Harlan concurring).

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Last modified: June 9, 2014