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Advocates and Lawmakers Call for Abolishment of Trump Admin's New Human Rights Commission

The Commission on Unalienable Rights will decide what international human rights concerns are considered valid.

Human rights groups, Democratic lawmakers—including presidential candidates—and faith leaders have sent letters to the Trump administration voicing concerns over its new human rights commission.

The Commission on Unalienable Rights was announced earlier this month, and is tasked with deciding which rights are legitimate. Advocates showed concern from the outset that it would be used to undermine LGBTQ and women's rights around the world.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the recipient of the trio of critical letters, and obtained by NBC News, announced the commission would be headed up by social conservative Mary Ann Glendon (below, with Pompeo), and argued that "words like 'rights' can be used by good or evil," and that in some cases human rights rhetoric has been "hijacked" for what he considered "dubious or malignant purposes."

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is joined by commission chair Harvard Professor Mary Ann Glendon while announcing the formation of a commission to redefine human rights, based on “natural law and natural rights”, during a news conference at the Department of State, on July 8, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Glendon served as ambassador to the Vatican during the George W. Bush administration, and has been a vocal opponent of marriage equality and abortion. Pompeo has also opposed marriage equality.

A letter signed by over 180 human rights groups, including HRC, the ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Center for Transgender Equality, calls on the commission to be abolished.

The letter argues the commission is overseen by clergy and scholars "known for extreme positions opposing LGBTQI and reproductive rights," and even include some who have defended "indefensible human rights violations."

The groups urge Pompeo to instead "focus your personal attention on the significant challenges currently facing the protection of human rights globally."

A letter from Catholic theologians, which was signed by more than 110 people, also calls for the commission to be dismantled, fearing it will be used to downplay the needs of the poor, as well as immigrants and refugees.

"Our faith and our commitment to the principles of democracy require us to view every person on earth as a full human being," their letter states, according to NBC.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a presentation about prescription drugs during a cabinet meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L), acting Defense Secretary Richard Spencer and others at the White House July 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump and members of his administration addressed a wide variety of subjects, including Iran, opportunity zones, drug prices, HIV/AIDS, immigration and other subjects for more than an hour. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A third letter, signed by 22 U.S. senators, argues the implication that there is confusion regarding what human rights count as rights is nothing more than "an Orwellian twist to defend the indefensible."

"Instead of condemning gross human rights violators, President Trump has fawned over Kim Jong Un, embraced Vladimir Putin, praised Rodrigo Duterte, looked the other way as Xi Jinping imprisons millions, and covered up for Mohammed bin Salman," the letter notes.

Among the 22 senators who signed that letter are Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Michael Bennet.

“It’s intellectual top-cover for an effort to restrict the rights of certain people,” Rob Berschinski of Human Rights First, which organized the letter campaign efforts, said of the commission.