Mike Pompeo’s human rights plan to change definitions, warn critics
The human rights plan of the State Department under Secretary Mike Pompeo could be used to change the definition of human rights in the US, warned human rights observers.
This plan could be used to advance Pompeo’s religious beliefs as an Evangelical Christian and prove detrimental in protecting women’s and LGBTQ rights.
Human rights plan to redefine human rights
Pompeo had created last July the Commission on Unalienable Rights to set a new vision for human rights policy that’s aligned with the “nation’s founding principles” while upholding religious freedom.
Pompeo earlier said about the commission: “There are those who would have preferred I didn’t do it, and are concerned about the answers that our foundational documents will provide.”
“I know where those rights came from. They came from our Lord,” he declared
He added that: “President Trump, our administration, recognizes it as our country’s first freedom, and it’s found at the very top of the Bill of Rights, so we kind of got it right.”
Pompeo said the commission’s human rights plan– which is set to be released by early July– would enshrine religious freedom as a central tenet of American human rights policy.
Pompeo’s commission to promote religious views
Human rights scholars pointed out that Pompeo had filled the commission with conservatives set on promoting views against abortion and marriage equality.
They also said that the commission could sidestep the State Department’s internal bureau tasked with promoting human rights abroad.
Alexandra Schmitt, a policy analyst for the Center for American Progress, said of the commission: “There is no apparent representation of the LGBTQ, immigrant, indigenous, or disabled communities.”
Former agency officials warned that elevating the importance of religion could reverse the country’s belief that “all rights are created equal.”
This new direction could encourage countries that support persecution of same-sex couples and prevent access by women to reproductive health for religious reasons.
Mark Bromley, the chairman of the Council for Global Equality, said this “is a group of individuals who want to redefine how this country balances human rights interests and to tip the scales in favor of religious freedom.”
Commission believes there are too many human rights
Pompeo’s commission has met five times publicly. Human rights advocates, former State Department officials, and academics were alarmed about what’s been happening during the meetings.
Directors Jayne Huckerby and Sarah Knuckey at Duke University and Columbia Law School wrote in a blog post that there is “a general skepticism” toward international human rights in the discussions.
Members of the commission believe there are too many human rights. Mary Ann Glendon, the head of the panel, said that “if everything is a right, then nothing is.”
Huckerby told Al Jazeera that: “The worry here is that these concerns are being used to roll back rights protection rather than to commit to best ensuring that everyone enjoys all rights equally.”
Rob Berschinski, a previous deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said: “My hope is that this document doesn’t come close to establishing something that looks like a hierarchy of rights.”
Human rights groups to challenge State Department
Because of this, some human rights groups are suing the State Department for violating a federal law that requires advisory panels like the commission to be “fairly balanced” and transparent with meeting documents.
The Democracy Forward group filed the lawsuit in Manhattan on behalf of several rights organisations as it sought to disband the commision for failing to meet requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).
In a joint news release, the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), the Council for Global Equality, and Global Justice Center, alleged the panel is “stacked with members who have staked out positions hostile to LGBTQI and reproductive rights.”
Meanwhile, six more prominent international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, said the commission could hinder to “protect the interests of people at risk of human rights violations.”
Though the State Department has said the committee would invite public comment on the report, human rights observers warned that this might not change anything.
Bromley said: “Through sheer force of political will and personality, (Pompeo has) been pushing it forward and has a very clear idea, if you look at his writings and speakings, of where he wants it to end up.”