Human Rights First Statement in Response to “Commission on Unalienable Rights” Draft Report

Human Rights First’s Rob Berschinski issued the following statement in response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s unveiling of the draft report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights: From the beginning, the Commission on Unalienable Rights has been an unnecessary political exercise designed by Sec. Pompeo to provide intellectual cover to an effort to recast American foreign policy in the mold of his personal religious and political views. Sec. Pompeo’s claim that a 'proliferation of rights' is 'trivializing core American values' is wrong. His need to ground the relationship between citizens and their government in nakedly religious terms is alarming. His insistence on bashing major American news organizations during a speech about America’s foundational principles is cynical, if in keeping with the views of President Trump. His notion that religious liberty and property rights are inherently more important than other rights is dangerous. And his assertion that President Trump stands opposed to those fomenting division in American society, rather than as a leading agitator of societal discord, is simply absurd. The draft report released today by the commission does exactly what its critics have long warned against. While couched in cautious language, the commission’s report makes clear that its authors view some rights, including reproductive rights and the rights of LGBTQ people, as merely 'divisive social and political controversies.' The commission’s willingness to treat the human rights framework as open to unilateral interpretation will only benefit governments that promote revisionist and culturally-relativist interpretations of human rights in order to justify their repressive policies. And in the context of its silence about an administration that has attacked human rights at home and eroded American leadership abroad, the commission has ceded its credibility. In July 2019, in a public letter organized by Human Rights First, nearly 180 human rights, faith-based, civil liberties, and social justice organizations, as well as 250 former senior government officials, foreign policy experts, scholars, and religious leaders called on Sec. Pompeo to disband the Commission on Unalienable Rights. In April 2020, Human Rights First strongly urged members of the commission to use their final report to recommend to Sec. Pompeo that he institute significant changes to numerous Trump administration policies concerning human rights and the rule of law while cautioning against the commission presenting an inaccurate interpretation of U.S. obligations under international human rights law.

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