The Biden administration axed on Tuesday a conservative human rights hierarchy established by former US President Donald Trump’s administration that was met with heavy criticism from rights groups.
In announcing the overhaul, Secretary of State Antony Blinken maintained everyone is “entitled to” universal human rights, regardless of “where they’re born, what they believe, whom they love, or any other characteristic.”
“Human rights are also co-equal. There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others,” he told reporters as he rolled out the US’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights.
“Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those offered by a recently disbanded State Department advisory committee do not represent a guiding document of this administration. At my confirmation hearing I promised the Biden-Harris administration would repudiate those unbalanced views. We do so decisively today,” he added.
Blinken was referring to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s controversial Commission on Unalienable Rights, which sought to elevate religious freedoms and property rights while diminishing others, including LGBTQ and reproductive rights.
The commission, which was spearheaded by anti-abortion advocate Mary Ann Glendon, released its final report in August and was immediately hit with searing criticism from rights groups.
Repudiating the commission’s findings, Blinken said human rights are “inter-dependent.”
“If you can’t assembly peacefully how can you organize a union or an opposition party, or exercise your freedom of religion, or belief?” he asked rhetorically.
This year’s human rights report, which analyzed country-specific developments in 2020, determined “that the trend lines on human rights continue to move in the wrong direction” worldwide, Blinken said.
“We see it in the genocide of the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” he said. “And in the executions, forced disappearances and tortures committed by the Syrian regime, as well as its ongoing attacks on schools, on markets, on hospitals.”