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Frmr. Sec. Pompeo’s “Commission on Unalienable Rights” Cannot Evade Accountability After Breaking Federal Law

Originally posted by Democracy Forward

Human Rights Orgs Press Lawsuit Over Commission’s Failure to Follow Transparency Law

New York, N.Y. — On Friday, four international human rights groups — Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), the Council for Global Equality, and the Global Justice Center, represented by Democracy Forward — explained in a new court filing why former Secretary Mike Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights cannot evade accountability after breaking federal transparency law at every turn. The groups filed suit over the Commission in March 2020.

In violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), former Secretary Pompeo deliberately stacked the Commission on Unalienable Rights with members with known hostility to LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights and without any known human rights practitioners. Pompeo’s Commission then unlawfully operated behind closed doors to produce an irreparably compromised final report. 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 Nationsforeign 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.

Military Stages Coup in Burma

NEW YORK — Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, seized power today in Burma following days of threats. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested along with many other political figures and government critics.

The Tatmadaw handed power over to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, its Commander-in-Chief, and declared a state of emergency lasting one year. 

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“This is the moment democracy activists and ethnic minorities have feared since the 2008 military-drafted constitution was used as the basis for ‘transition’ and utterly failed to reign in military supremacy. The Tatmadaw has exposed the vast vulnerabilities of Burma's democratic institutions by staging this brazen coup. Given the history of military rule, the risk of ensuing violence and atrocities is greater than any moment in recent memory.

“We can’t ignore the repeated failure of the international community to take concerted action to curb military power and hold it accountable for its constant human rights abuses, including its genocidal campaign against the Rohingya. For years, world leaders praised a ‘democratic’ transition and constitution that gave the military the very power they used to stage today’s coup. Now, we’re seeing the consequences of an international order that blinds itself to reality in the interest of ‘progress’ and economic investment instead of protecting human rights.

“The military must be called upon to swiftly release all political detainees and respect the results of November’s election, but action cannot end there. Women’s rights and ethnic minority groups in Burma have long decried military impunity for international crimes such as sexual violence. They have repeatedly called for international action, including a referral to the International Criminal Court and targeted sanctions. It’s past time for the international community to embrace their demands and pursue a policy grounded in justice, accountability, and human rights for all.”

Biden Administration Repeals Global Gag Rule

NEW YORK — The Biden administration today rescinded the Global Gag Rule (also known as the “Mexico City Policy”'). It also ordered a review of the Trump administration’s “domestic gag rule,” which bars organizations participating in the Title X family planning program from providing abortion services.

First ordered by President Reagan in 1984, the Global Gag Rule blocks foreign organizations from receiving certain US funds if they provide abortion services, referrals, or information or if they advocate for changes to abortion laws in their country. Initially restricted to “family planning” funds, President Trump expanded the rule to apply to organizations receiving nearly any global health assistance funds.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“We welcome the repeal of the disastrous Global Gag Rule. Now begins the critical work of communicating the new policy to the world. But let’s be clear — repealing Gag is the bare minimum. 

“The Biden administration should have also included in this executive order a provision allowing congressionally permitted exceptions for rape, life endangerment, and incest to the Helms Amendment, which is the legal foundation for Gag and has prohibited any U.S. foreign aid from going to abortion services since 1973. Reproductive rights activists should be worried that, like his predecessor, he will ultimately choose political expediency over survivors’ rights to access safe abortion services.

“We are also disappointed with the administration’s failure to consistently and explicitly use the word ‘abortion’ since taking office. The global and domestic rules directly target abortion services and by tiptoing around this fact, the Biden administration is stigmatizing abortion — a human right.

“The Biden administration can’t call itself a champion of women if it repeals Gag but leaves in place the patriarchal structure around it. The reproductive rights community has compiled a comprehensive agenda for sexual and reproductive health that details what is necessary. If we want to truly “build back better,” we must go beyond simply rolling back Trump’s policies and embrace a bold, feminist agenda for global health and human rights.”

United States Designates China’s Treatment of Uyghurs as Genocide

NEW YORK — The United States today declared China’s government is committing genocide and other international crimes against the Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority living in western China. In the past, President-elect Joe Biden has also deemed the repression of Uyghurs genocide.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“The United States is right to bring the brutal, years-long repression of the Uyghurs within the framework of genocide. What’s more, it correctly cited gendered crimes of biological destruction like forced sterilization and birth control. However, the human rights community should be alarmed at reports that this decision was motivated by policy goals instead of a legal obligation to prevent and punish genocide.

“Our legal and moral duty to combat genocide should inform our policy goals, not the other way around. The US should be applauded for taking action to prevent the destruction of the Uyghurs and we hope other nations join them. But we must see fighting genocide as a cause for humanity rather than a geopolitical wedge.

“We hope to see the US follow these strong words with decisive action. Where there is a risk of genocide, there is a duty to act. Moving forward, this designation should inform the entirety of US foreign policy and we hope to hear more from the incoming Biden administration on how it plans to follow through on this historic announcement.”

Myanmar Files Second Report to World Court on Compliance with Order to Protect Rohingya

NEW YORK — The government of Myanmar today filed its second report to the International Court of Justice on compliance with the court’s order to protect Rohingya from genocide. The report will not be made public at this time.

The court issued its “provisional measures” order in January. It required Myanmar to prevent genocidal acts, ensure military and police forces do not commit genocidal acts, preserve all evidence of genocidal acts, and report on compliance with these provisional measures. Reports to the court are due every six months after the first report in May.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“We welcome Myanmar’s second report, but merely meeting the court’s technical deadlines is not enough. Since the provisional measures order was issued, Myanmar has done nothing to address the root causes of discrimination and impunity that give rise to the ongoing risk of genocide against the Rohingya.

“In fact, the government has ramped up discrimination with this month’s election that disenfranchised Rohingya voters and blocked Rohingya candidates from running for office. Meaningful compliance with the order requires comprehensive legal reform to dismantle systemic discrimination against the Rohingya and to strip the military of its supremacy and autonomy.”