Pompeo told approximately 100 invited guests, who wore masks and sat 6 feet apart, that Philadelphia was “intentionally chosen,” presumably because of its association with the Declaration of Independence, but the event violated the city’s ban on indoor gatherings of more than 25 people.
The decision to hold an in-person event was just one point of contention in what has been a series of critiques since Pompeo created the commission with the stated intention of providing advice for the secretary on human rights matters.
The members were conservative academics and theologians and they met mostly in private, despite federal law on public commissions that requires open meetings.
“It was a problematic commission from the beginning,” says University of Pennsylvania professor Sarah Paoletti, an expert on asylum law.
She also questioned the need for the commission.
“Past administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have gone forward with the current framework of human rights,” she said. “There is an entire cadre of staff and department within the Department of State that covers democracy, human rights and labor and those are not the folks who were tapped to look at this.”
The report the commission produced is 60 pages long and examines rights laid out in both the Declaration and the Constitution and dissects the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The report emphasizes,” Pompeo said, “foremost among those rights are property rights and religious liberty.”
Paoletti says prioritizing those two things belies the report’s nod towards current concerns, such as the fight against systemic racism or the mistreatment of immigrants.
“It is grounded in documents written by white men in a history where slavery existed,” she says, “and really fails to recognize the current context in which rights are being analyzed.”
It’s not clear how the report will be used in U.S. foreign policy.
There is a two week public comment period before it becomes final. You can read the report here.
Comments can be sent to a special email address for the commission.