Donald Trump is on an Orwellian mission to redefine human rights
It has long been abundantly clear Trump has no respect for human rights. Now Pompeo wants to build a new framework to justify the rollback of protections
The president of the United States makes racist comments against members of Congress. He puts kids in cages. Attempts to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Praises dictators.
It has long been abundantly clear that Donald Trump has no respect for human rights. Now, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, wants to build a new intellectual framework to justify the administration’s rollback of human rights protections.
That is the only way to understand Pompeo’s new Commission on Unalienable Rights. In launching the group Pompeo explicitly stated that the purpose of the commission is to start from scratch in defining human rights. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Pompeo described part of the commission’s mandate: It will “address basic questions: What are our fundamental freedoms? Why do we have them? Who or what grants these rights?”
But it seems clear the intention is to both narrow the definition and application of rights. Pompeo said that the commission’s goal is to exclude “ad hoc” rights. While he does not elaborate on what “ad hoc” rights are, he attacks “politicians and bureaucrats” who “create new rights”, and many of the members of the commission appear to have been selected in no small part because they also want to roll back human rights.
As journalist Ali Rogin reported, one commissioner praised Saudi Arabia and defended it over the murder of the Washington Postjournalist Jamal Khashoggi, while another commissioner praised the United Arab Emirates and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s autocratic power grab. The commission chair, Mary Ann Glendon, opposes reproductive rights and marriage equality.
While the Trump administration seeks to redefine human rights, it is clearly ignoring the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which itself built on the fundamental freedoms enshrined in America’s own bill of rights. Developed by a commission composed of members from around the world and chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the declaration was forged in the wake of the second world war and adopted without dissent by the UN general assembly. A truly historic breakthrough – with countries of all political leanings and cultures backing a common definition of rights – the declaration has been a global north star ever since.