NEWARK — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, today issued the following statement following Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s launch of the Commission on Unalienable Rights’ report:
“Secretary Pompeo’s launch of the Commission on Unalienable Rights’ report represents another effort by the Trump Administration to undermine internationally-recognized human rights, further damaging the United States’ reputation as a global human rights leader. As feared, Secretary Pompeo used his speech to insinuate a hierarchy of rights where property rights and religious liberty are ‘foremost’ rights and some rights are not ‘worth defending.’ By justifying the roll back of hard-won advances for the rights of women, girls, and LGBTQ persons, Secretary Pompeo detailed a report that does not call on the U.S. Government to champion greater protections for all human rights abroad, but may in fact narrow the scope of U.S. human rights obligations and further erode America’s moral and global leadership.
“Most recently, it was revealed that President Trump expressed approval of concentration camps in Xinjiang. Under the leadership of the President, Secretary Pompeo and other cabinet members, this administration has detained migrant children and separated them from their parents, denied individuals their right to seek asylum, downplayed human rights abuses in countries from North Korea to the Persian Gulf, coddled a dictator who ordered the murder of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, actively rolled back reproductive health care at home and abroad, and verbally attacked the principle of freedom of the press, among other actions. No State Department commission should be allowed to legitimize or rationalize President Trump’s corrosive approach to long-standing human rights principles and American ideals.
“From its very inception, I have expressed concern that Secretary Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights will devalue human rights. Today, this concern has been confirmed. The report’s introduction showed once again that claims this Commission would ‘revitalize’ international human rights protections were lies. Instead, this report will undermine long-standing, internationally-recognized human rights principles and a human rights framework which prior U.S. presidents and administrations have championed for decades, regardless of party. Without major changes to promote and protect the full realization of human rights for vulnerable communities, including women, girls, and LGBTQ persons, this report will serve as a stain on America’s moral fabric and a wrecking ball to America’s global leadership.”
On July 23, 2019, Ranking Member Menendez led 22 of his Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary Pompeo disputing the claim at the basis of the Commission’s formation that there is any “proliferation” of or “confusion” over human rights. Furthermore, the Senators also expressed concern for the lack of diversity among Commission members, who overwhelmingly supported discriminatory policies towards the LGBTQ community, held hostile views towards women’s rights and reproductive freedoms, and supported positions at odd with U.S. treaty obligations. A lawsuit regarding the Commission’s potential violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires such panels be “fairly balanced” and “open to the public,” is still pending.
On May 20, 2020, Menendez led a group of 19 of his Senate colleagues in sending another letter to Secretary Pompeo outlining long-standing United States human rights principles they expected to be reaffirmed in the Commission’s final report. These principles included a commitment to the full realization of rights and obligations enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including the rights of women, girls, LGBTQ persons, and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, as well as access to reproductive health and rights.