Latest Update January 29, 2021

Former Secretary Pompeo’s "Commission on Unalienable Rights" Cannot Evade Accountability

Our latest court filing explains why former Secretary Mike Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights cannot evade accountability after breaking federal transparency law at every turn. Once the report was published, Pompeo and the Commission’s members harmed the interests of human rights practitioners by touting the Commission’s findings and conclusions before the United Nations, foreign governments, and foreign civil society organizations. But the Commission’s report is unlawful and should be labeled as such. We’ll continue to fight for these results in court.

Learn More

In July 2019, Secretary Pompeo illegally formed the Commission on Unalienable Rights with a predetermined goal of privileging religious freedom over all other human rights in American foreign policy. The Commission is working to articulate a definition of human rights that is grounded in certain religious traditions and that will eliminate rights for LGBTQI individuals, restrict sexual and reproductive health and rights and remove protections for other marginalized communities across the globe. We filed suit to stop it.

The Commission is unlawfully stacked with members who have staked out positions hostile to LGBTQI and reproductive rights while excluding established human rights organizations, and has failed to release key public documents, as required by law. The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that groups, like the Commission, that are convened to advise agencies maintain a balanced membership, demonstrate that their existence is in the public interest, and operate transparently. Since its creation, however, the Commission has excluded representatives from mainstream human rights groups and sidelined career diplomats within the State Department. The Commission is also conducting meetings behind closed doors and failing to make its key records available to the public. This lack of transparency makes it difficult to know what the Commission is doing as it prepares to provide the Trump administration with a roadmap to deny equal rights for all.

We filed suit against Secretary Pompeo and the State Department for violating FACA by creating the unlawful Commission on Unalienable Rights. On behalf of international human rights organizations — Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), the Council for Global Equality, and Global Justice Center — we sued to shut down this unlawful advisory group.

March 2020

We Filed Suit

The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires any outside advisory group that provides recommendations or advice to a federal agency to maintain a balanced membership, fulfill a public interest need, and operate transparently. The Commission is violating all these requirements.

June 4, 2020

We Advanced our Case and Filed a Motion for Summary Judgement

The Commission is expected to send its recommendations to Secretary Pompeo by July 4, 2020. The new filing comes on the heels of President Trump’s Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom. More than 20 U.S. Senators and 50 members of Congress objected to the Commission’s formation and mission. They questioned why the Commission is necessary given the Department’s internal human rights experts. Members of the Senate reiterated these concerns on May 20 and, with the anticipated July release of the Commission’s report, encouraged Secretary Pompeo to ensure the Commission’s work reaffirms the U.S.’ commitment to human rights.

Learn More
June 11, 2020

Coalition of Human Rights Orgs File an Amicus Brief in Support

Human Rights Watch, American Jewish World Service, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights First, and the International Women’s Health Coalition submitted a “friend of the court” brief in support of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Secretary of State Pompeo’s unlawful formation and operation of the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights. In their brief, these groups write that they “are deeply troubled by the Commission’s apparent intent to undo decades of progress — repeatedly affirmed in multilateral treaties which the United States has signed and, in some cases, ratified — by replacing authoritative interpretations of international human rights law with those of the Commission’s members.”

Learn More
June 22, 2020

Within Legal Filings, State Dept Gives Vague Commitment to Public Comment Period for Report

The Trump administration announced in a new legal filing that it will allow the public an opportunity to comment on the Commission’s report. However, much is still unknown about when they will open a comment period, for how long this will happen, or if they will even consider comments they receive.

Learn More
July 16, 2020

The Commission Releases its “Human Rights” Report

The report is the product of a Commission that was unlawfully formed with a narrowly chosen membership made up of academics with little human rights experience and long records of opposition to the rights of women and the LBGTQI community. The Commission also unlawfully shut the public out of its work, leading us to file a lawsuit against the State Department.

Learn More
January 28, 2021

“Commission on Unalienable Rights” Cannot Evade Accountability After Breaking Federal Law

Once the report was published, Pompeo and the Commission’s members harmed the interests of human rights practitioners by touting the Commission’s findings and conclusions before the United Nations, foreign governments, and foreign civil society organizations. But the Commission’s report is unlawful and should be labeled as such. We’ll continue to fight for these results in court.

Learn More

Karianne Jones

Senior Counsel

Litigating cases on issues involving, among other things, gender justice, civil rights, and workplace justice.

Read the Bio

Ben Seel

Counsel

Focusing on justice, national security, immigration, and health care issues.

Read the Bio