US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



Sign-on: Reject Pompeo Commission’s Report

Jul 23, 2020

Last year when the US government announced the formation of a new “Commission on Unalienable Rights” based on “natural law,” we voiced our objection to the Commission and urged full cooperation with international human rights bodies via a public statement. We supported Human Rights First’s 2019 letter demanding that the Commission be disbanded, which was signed by nearly 200 organizations.

On July 16, 2020, the Commission released its first report which seeks to redefine and hierarchize human rights, uplifting specific rights while degrading other rights as “divisive.” We believe that this report is intended to delegitimize international human rights bodies and the human rights framework, and to legitimize and accelerate policies that further oppress already marginalized groups including women and LGBTQIA+ people. 

The Commission’s report is open for public comment until July 30, 2020. Please consider submitting a public comment via in order to demonstrate widespread opposition to the report and the nefarious effort to dismantle the human rights framework that it represents. 

In addition to submitting your own public comment, please join us in support of Human Rights First’s open letter rejecting the Commission’s report. The letter was developed with input from a number of human rights NGOs closely following the Commission’s work. The sign-on form will remain open for signature through Tuesday, July 28. Please find key points from the letter below, and further commentary from Human Rights First at the bottom of this email:

  • First, we reject the notion—fundamental to the Commission’s mandate—that a proliferation of rights claims has undermined the legitimacy and credibility of the human rights framework. 
  • Second, we reject the idea that there is an untenable uncertainty regarding the meaning and scope of the human rights framework that necessitates sidelining binding treaties. 
  • Third, we reject the manner in which the report promotes rights hierarchies through its emphasis on a certain subset of civil and political rights. 
  • Fourth, we strongly reject the Commission’s dismissal of certain rights as “divisive social and political controversies.” 
  • Fifth, we reject the report’s focus on so-called new rights and its criteria for recognizing them. 

“As detailed in the sign-on letter, the Commission’s draft final report, as expected, attempts to establish an arbitrary and highly selective hierarchy of rights in line with Secretary Pompeo’s political and religious views. While couched in subtle language, the report is intended to allow Pompeo and likeminded officials a means to dispense with U.S. treaty obligations and international law in order to privilege religious freedom and downgrade LGBTI and women’s reproductive rights, which the report dismisses as “divisive social and political controversies.” In addition to potential impacts the report may have on U.S. foreign policy, we remain strongly concerned that the Commission’s willingness to treat the human rights framework as open to unilateral interpretation will greatly benefit governments that promote culturally-relativist interpretations of human rights in order to justify their repressive policies.” 

- Rob Berschinski, Senior Vice President for Policy at Human Rights First