State Department Launches ‘Commission on Unalienable Rights’

By Ilona Schumicky | July 8, 2019 | 3:31pm EDT
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Getty Images) 

( -- Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo announced today that the U.S. Department of State has created the ‘Commission on Unalienable Rights,’ which is designed to advise the Secretary on “human rights grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Pompeo.

“The commission is composed of human rights experts, philosophers, and activists, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents of varied background and beliefs, who will provide me with advice on human rights grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said the secretary at the State Department.

(Library of Congress.) 

“It’s a sad commentary on our times that more than 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, gross violations continue throughout the world, sometimes even in the name of human rights,” he said.  “[T]he time is right for an informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy.”

The Declaration of Independence, which was ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government...." (Emphasis added.) 

Secretary Pompeo continued, “I hope that the commission will revisit the most basic of questions: What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right? How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right -- is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored? … Is it, in fact, true, as our Declaration of Independence asserts, that as human beings, we – all of us, every member of our human family – are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights?”

Tony Perkins, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the “USCIRF is very pleased that the State Department is continuing to make human rights an integral part of U.S. foreign policy and relations.”

Hungarian political prisoners used as slave labor in the Soviet Gulag post-WWII. (YouTube)

“We applaud the creation of this commission as another way of ensuring that the protection of these fundamental rights – the most foundational of which is freedom of religion or belief – is a core element of strategic policy discussions,” said Perkins.

In a statement, the USCIRF said it is “prepared to work with the new commission in providing advice and recommendations to guide U.S. diplomatic and foreign policy decisions and actions with respect to international religious freedom.”

Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, was selected to be the chairman of the Commission on Unalienable Rights. She is “an expert in the field of human rights, comparative law, and political theory,” said Pompeo.

One of many concentration/re-education camps in present-day Communist China. (BBC)

Other members of the commission include Russell Berman, Peter Berkowitz, Paolo Carozza, Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Jacqueline Rivers, Meir Soloveichik, Katrina Lantos Swett, Christopher Tollefsen, and David Tse-Chien Pan.

“To the degree that this new Commission within the State Department can help further communicate from Washington to the Department’s farthest outposts the importance and urgency of religious freedom concerns as a fundamental human right, we believe this will lead to higher impact negotiations on behalf of the more than 70% of the world’s population that is currently suffering persecution or abuse,” stated USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin.

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