US

State Department Announces New Council on Inalienable Rights

By Holly Kellum

WASHINGTON—U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced July 8 the creation of a commission on inalienable rights to advise him on how to best interpret human rights based on the constitution and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Every once in a while we need to step back and reflect seriously on where we are, where we’ve been, and whether we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “I hope that the commission will revisit the most basic of questions: what does it mean to say and claim that something is in fact a human right?”

The Trump administration is committed to a “foreign policy from the founding” principals of the country, he said, and creating this bipartisan, interreligious group of human rights experts, philosophers, and activists is directed toward that goal.

This comes as Democrats in the United States like presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are calling for an expanding list of what “human rights” encompasses. He’s called for a 21st century economic Bill of Rights that includes things like affordable housing, a job that “pays a living wage,” a pre-K-through-college education, and a “secure retirement.”

Pompeo warned that while human rights can be “rays of light in the darkness,” they can also be “lethal arrows.”

“As human rights claims have proliferated, some claims [compete for] attention with one another, provoking questions and clashes about which rights are entitled to gain respect,” he said. “The time is ripe for an informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy.”

He also called out countries and international institutions that “remain confused about their respective responsibilities concerning human rights.”

The latter is possibly a reference to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which the United States pulled out of last year.

Pompoeo said at the time it was because the council had ignored some of the most egregious cases of human rights violations, and that some of the world’s most serious violators of human rights were allowed to sit on the council, making it an “exercise in shameless hypocrisy.”