Subcommittees Oppose Potentially Dangerous Language and Raise Public Health Concerns in the State Department’s Unalienable Rights Draft Report and Release Event
Washington, D.C. (July 16, 2020)—Today, Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8), Chairman of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, issued the following statement after the State Department revealed a draft report from the Commission on Unalienable Rights.
“Based on Secretary Pompeo’s remarks today and an initial review of the report, it seems that our fears about the Commission and its work may have been confirmed. Since the Commission was first announced, we have feared that its work would undermine LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights and the long-standing, bipartisan commitment to human rights principles in U.S. foreign policy. We were also concerned that the Commission’s report would inaccurately interpret U.S. obligations under the international human rights framework.”
Chairs Castro and Raskin also condemned the public health risk and lack of transparency caused by the Commission holding its release at an in-person, “public” meeting.
“It is unconscionable that the State Department conducted the release event in person with a live audience during a global pandemic, rather than making the event available virtually. It is also absurd that the Department has refused to extend its time period for public comment and to fully respond to our outstanding requests.”
Last month, the two chairs issued a joint request for documents and for a briefing on the Commission’s activities. The State Department has yet to cooperate fully with these congressional inquiries.
On July 16, the State Department revealed a draft report from its Commission on Unalienable Rights during an in-person “public” meeting. Earlier this month, Rep. Castro and Rep. Raskin issued a joint statement asking for accessibility and transparency during this event, as well as raising concerns for the risks associated with an in-person meeting during a global pandemic. Instead, the State Department conducted their meeting in-person and reversed their decision to livestream the release of their report, making the event inaccessible to the general public.
In addition, the chairs continue to share the serious concerns raised by human rights organizations indicating that the Commission’s report would undermine human rights.
The Commission has continued to demonstrate a lack of transparency and has resisted Congressional oversight since the first questions were posed to the Department by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July 2019.