United States of America v. Palestine Liberation Organization
695 F. Supp. 1456 (S.D. N.Y. 1988)
The US signed the Headquarters
Agreement with the United Nations.
It said that Federal and State authorities shall not impose any
impediments to transit to or from the UN Headquarters of persons invited
to the UN on official business.
So even countries that the
US doesn't have diplomatic relations with can still send diplomats to the
Later, the UN invited the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to join the UN As an observer.
The PLO set up an office in
Later, the US passed the Anti-Terrorism
The ATA made it illegal for terrorist organizations
to set up offices in the US. It specifically mentioned the PLO as a
The UN passed a resolution (UNGA
42/229A) saying that the US was under
obligation to enable the PLO to maintain its office in New York.
The US went to Federal Court
to get an injunction allowing them to close the PLO office.
The Federal Appellate Court
found that Statutes and Treaties are both the 'supreme law of the land'
and that the Founders did not provide an order of precedence or guidance
on how to resolve conflicts between the two.
The Court looked to the
Chinese Exclusion Case (130 U.S. 581
(1889)) and found that where a treaty is irreconcilable with a later
enacted Statute and Congress has clearly evinced an intent to supercede
the treaty by enacting the Statute does the later enacted Statute take
In this case, the Court
found that the ATA did not
mention the Headquarters Agreement, nor the specific PLO office in New York. Therefore, there was
no clear intent on the part of Congress to violate the treaty.
The Court suggested that if
Congress were to go back and amend the law to mention the PLO office in
New York specifically, then it would supercede the treaty.
The basic point of this case
is that a Statute can only supercede a treaty if it is very clear that
Congress intended to supercede the treaty by enacting the Statute.
The general rule is that
when a treaty conflicts with a
Federal Statute, then the one that was executed last is the one that
governs. But you can't infer a conflict, it has to be explicit.