Top diplomat Pompeo launches panel to review human rights in US foreign policy

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said international institutions built to protect human rights had drifted from their mission.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said international institutions built to protect human rights had drifted from their mission.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday (July 8) launched a panel to re-examine the role of human rights in US foreign policy, which some lawmakers and activists worry could be a move to minimise abortion and gay rights.

Mr Pompeo named Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon, a former US ambassador to the Vatican, to head the 10-member Commission on Unalienable Rights.

The panel will be made up of human rights experts and activists from across the political spectrum, he said.

Mr Pompeo, who did not take questions from reporters, said international institutions built to protect human rights had drifted from their mission.

"As human rights claims have proliferated, some claims have come into tension with one another provoking questions and clashes about which rights are entitled to gain respect," he said.

"Nation states and international institutions remain confused about the respective responsibilities concerning human rights. The time is right for an informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy."

Rights groups have criticised the Trump administration for not making human rights a priority in its foreign policy.

 
 

Critics say this sends a message that the administration turns a blind eye to human rights abuses in allied countries such as Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Egypt.

"This politicisation of human rights in order to, what appears to be an attempt to further hateful policies aimed at women and LGBTQ people, is shameful," Ms Joanne Lin, national director of advocacy and government affairs at right group Amnesty International USA, said in a statement.

After being introduced by Mr Pompeo, Ms Glendon said the commission would "do our very best to carry out your marching orders and to do so in a way that will assist you in your difficult task of transmuting principle into policy".

The Trump administration has stepped up an anti-abortion push at the United Nations since cutting funding in 2017 for the UN Population Fund because it supports or participates in "a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation".

The United Nations said that was an inaccurate perception.

In April, a US threat to veto UN Security Council action on sexual violence in conflict was averted after a long-agreed-upon phrase was removed because the Trump administration saw it as code for abortion, diplomats said.

Last year, Washington tried to remove language on sexual and reproductive health from several General Assembly resolutions, then failed in a similar campaign in March during the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women meeting.