On July 4th, President Trump held just one telephone call with a foreign leader—President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, of Egypt, a former field marshal who has orchestrated two military coups since 2011 and now ranks as the most autocratic leader in his country’s modern history. A week earlier, at the G-20 summit of world leaders in Japan, Trump joked with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, about the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election and expressed envy that his counterpart did not have to deal with “fake news.” (Twenty-six journalists have been murdered in Russia since Putin first became President.) The next day, Trump heaped praise on Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince tied by U.S. intelligence and a recent U.N. report to the grisly murder and dismemberment of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A day later, the President stepped into North Korea to reward Kim Jong Un, the world’s most authoritarian despot, with a handshake and the promise of better relations. The President has had few qualms about cozying up to dictators. He has other favorites, including Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in Turkey, and Rodrigo Duterte, in the Philippines.
So on Monday, to choruses of disbelief in Washington and around the world, the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that the Administration was creating a new commission to explore “unalienable rights” in U.S. foreign policy. “The time is right for an informed review of the role of human rights,” Pompeo told reporters. The United States must, he said, “be vigilant that human-rights discourse not be corrupted or hijacked or used for dubious or malignant purposes.” He vowed that the ten-member panel would provide the most comprehensive review since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (an effort chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt) was adopted by the United Nations, in 1948.
In fact, however, the commission’s charter, first posted briefly on the Federal Register in May, made no mention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It instead cited the need for new discourse on deviations from “natural law.” Its language invoked rights only as “God-given”; it implicitly challenged man-made laws as well as decisions by the Supreme Court on abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage.
The original language so alarmed five senior Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they wrote Pompeo an open letter, last month, warning that the term “natural law” has previously justified discrimination against marginalized populations. After Pompeo’s announcement on Monday, human-rights groups charged that the Administration was trying to redefine what a right is—potentially in ways that deny a woman’s right to choose and that target rather than protect minorities, especially the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
“It’s no secret that this White House administration will stop at nothing to roll back the health and human rights our country has worked for decades to establish for women and the LGBTQI+ community,” Serra Sippel, the president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, said in a statement. “It’s time to call the Commission on Unalienable Rights what it really is: a thinly veiled religious fundamentalist panel that aims to cut back the human rights of people all over the world.” Read more via The New Yorker