Litigation

RFK Human Rights Sues Trump, Pompeo

In January 2021, with the change in administrations, incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken voluntarily terminated the commission and has sought to have the case dismissed. RFK Human Rights and our partners issued a court filing in response, highlighting how the commission’s damage has already been done and must be redressed.

RFK Human Rights Sues Trump Administration to Halt Potentially Devastating Commission on Unalienable Rights

On March 6, 2020, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights took the momentous and necessary step of suing the Trump administration and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in federal court. The aim: to stop the illegal actions of the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, which could catastrophically redefine human rights and undercut protections for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other marginalized communities around the globe.

The commission was formed in July 2019 with a predetermined goal of privileging religious freedom over all other human rights in American foreign policy. It recruited only narrow-minded academics as advisory members while denying representation to the views of actual human rights practitioners with critical perspectives, in direct conflict with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). Close scrutiny of its operations show that many commission members have made atrocious statements about LGBTQ+ people, denounced a woman’s right to choose, downplayed the existence of economic, social, and cultural rights, and have even expressed support for violent dictators.

Since then, the commission has operated in secrecy, conducting meetings behind closed doors and failing to make commission records available to the public, both of which defy FACA’s “sunshine law” demanding transparency for such groups.

“The Trump administration’s agenda is on display at the Supreme Court this week for all to see,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of RFK Human Rights. “Our lawsuit is bringing light to their attempts to export their misogynistic and homophobic policies around the world—policies which would deny women basic reproductive health rights, like access to contraceptives, would deny LGBTQ+ people recognition as rights holders, and would hand over who gets rights and who doesn’t to religious sects and autocrats.”

Why is This a Key Case?

The commission’s stated purpose of providing “fresh thinking about human rights discourse” is not only deceptive, it raises a glaring red flag coming from an administration that has repeatedly trampled on human rights over the last four years. The actions of the commission are unlawful and illegitimate, as is the commission’s existence itself. Left to operate, the commission is set to do nothing less than enact a dangerous assault on global human rights and embolden oppressive regimes everywhere.

How is RFK Human Rights Supporting the Case?

The organization—along with partners the Center for Health and Gender Equity, the Council for Global Equality, the Global Justice Center, and the watchdog group Democracy Forward—sued the Trump administration for creating and operating the commission in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act on March 6, 2020.

Case Partners

  • Center for Health and Gender Equity

    Together, we sued the Trump administration for creating and operating the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

  • Global Justice Center

    Together, we sued the Trump administration for creating and operating the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

  • Democracy Forward

    Together, we sued the Trump administration for creating and operating the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

  • Council for Global Equality

    Together, we sued the Trump administration for creating and operating the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.