Letter Opposing the Commission on Unalienable Rights
July 30, 2020
Dear Chairperson Glendon:
On July 23, 2019, hundreds of human rights, civil liberties, social justice, and faith-based organizations and leaders, including many signatories of this letter, wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo to object to the Commission on Unalienable Rights’ (“Commission”) mandate, rationale, and composition. Having reviewed the Commission’s draft “Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights” of July 16 (“report”) and Secretary Pompeo’s speech at its unveiling, we write again to object strenuously to the work product that has emerged from this fundamentally flawed and unnecessary undertaking.
The 111 organizations and 119 individuals listed below submit this letter as a joint, official comment on the draft report. We do so while recognizing that a two-week public comment period is an inadequate timeframe for providing appropriately substantive response to a 60-page document. We furthermore understand that Secretary Pompeo has, as of July 20, instructed all State Department personnel to “read the report thoroughly” as a means to “guide every State Department employee” in the work of carrying out U.S. foreign policy. That the Secretary of State would issue such direction to State Department personnel while you continue to solicit public comment from civil society on a document described as a “draft” epitomizes the bad faith of this enterprise.
We again reiterate the impossibility of separating the Commission’s work, which we believe undermines decades of human rights progress, from the political agenda it serves and the historical moment in which it has been written. The report asserts (appropriately, in our view) that the United States should “vigorously champion human rights in its foreign policy," and that “America can only be an effective advocate for human rights abroad if she demonstrates her commitment to those same rights at home.” Yet the policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration, and the conclusions of the report itself, undermine these very statements.