Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just appointed a cadre of people who seem to oppose human rights to a panel that deals with human rights.
According to PBS News, the “unalienable human rights” commission now has members who have praised regimes that are known for abusing human rights, like Saudi Arabia.
The ten-person commission writes about the philosophical meaning of what “human rights” is and how it should impact foreign affairs. Two of the members have defended Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, despite serious human rights abuses, according to international standards.
PBS noted that according to the State Department’s own reports, these three countries have “extensive abuses” on human rights.
“In 2018, commissioner Russell Berman, a Stanford University professor of comparative literature and German studies, downplayed the outcry over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the reaction was politically motivated,” the report explained.
“The hue and cry about [Khashoggi] has really been—no surprise there—about the upcoming election, another effort to get at President Trump,” Berman said in an interview in Oct. 2018. It was just weeks after the Washington Post reporter’s murder.
Berman even heaped glowing praise to the Saudis saying that they had a more modern reform agenda than Iran.
Michael Posner, who served at the State Department from 2009 to 2013, told PBS that because the panel of people is so small, two people can dramatically change the policies.
“It can be confusing and it can undermine a normal, functioning process,” Posner said. He also explained that the commission could end up being a “distraction, and it undermines the normal process.”
The second commissioner, Hamza Yusuf, praised the UAE, saying that it was “a country that is committed to tolerance…. This is a country that is committed to civil society. It is one of the safest countries on the earth.”
The UAE also is accused of numerous human rights abuses on its people. A Human Rights Watch staffer even called out Yusuf’s comments in a separate news report to an independent news organization in the area.
“For someone as influential as Sheikh Hamza Yusuf to call the UAE ‘tolerant’ contributes and gives credibility to the authorities’ carefully tailored, yet false image as a progressive and rights respected state,” said Hiba Zayadin of Human Rights Watch.