Pompeo must commit to defending human rights as secretary of State

Greg Nash

Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be the next secretary of State comes at a time when thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes in search of safety, and human rights defenders around the world face growing persecution. If confirmed, Pompeo will make decisions that affect the fundamental rights of millions of people in the U.S. and around the world. His nomination must not be rubber-stamped.

Although the Senate confirmed Pompeo as CIA Director in 2017, this high-stakes nomination as secretary of State calls for a new, vigorous scrutiny of his human rights record. The Senate should vigorously scrutinize Pompeo’s record on human rights, including his support of torture, opposition to the admission of refugees, displays of hostility to Muslims and threats to the rights of women and LGBTI people. Pompeo must not be confirmed without ensuring he makes a clear commitment to upholding fundamental rights.

{mosads}Over the years Guantánamo has come to symbolize torture, rendition and indefinite detention without charge or trial. Nevertheless, as a member of Congress, Pompeo supported keeping the facility open. In 2015, he stated that detainees “should stay right where they are” and that “the detention facility is the right place for [detainees] from both a security and legal perspective.” Pompeo also implicitly supported torture by declaring that CIA officers accused of mistreating detainees were “not torturers, they [were] patriots” and that the acts of torture and ill treatment “were within the law.”

His support for keeping Guantanamo open is especially disturbing in the wake of President Trump’s intention to send more prisoners to the facility. If the administration follows through on this proposal, this would be the first time new prisoners are sent to Guantanamo in over a decade. We must not allow the United States to slide back into torture and other human rights violations.

But Pompeo’s stance on torture and detention is not the only disturbing aspect of his record. He also co-sponsored legislation to seek a blanket ban on all refugee admissions, even though people seeking safety are already subjected to a rigorous vetting process. The secretary of State oversees the office charged with protecting refugees, migrants, and people living in armed conflict situations. Pompeo’s views call into question his commitment to effectively managing this bureau.

Pompeo has also publicly displayed outright hostility toward the Muslim community. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing attacks, Pompeo falsely accused Muslim leaders of failing to condemn the attacks, stating that their silence made “Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts” of terrorism. In actuality, Muslim-American leaders had swiftly and unequivocally condemned the attacks.

Together, Pompeo’s opposition to the refugee program and his hostility toward the Muslim community paints the picture of someone eager to shut our doors to people fleeing violence and persecution, especially if they happen to be Muslim.

On top of that, Pompeo has threatened the rights of women and LGBTI people. As a member of Congress, he co-sponsored legislation that would make abortion illegal nationwide in nearly all cases. He also voted to defund Planned Parenthood, a move that would have blocked vital reproductive health services to women including low-income women and women of color.

Pompeo’s support of the “Global Gag Rule” is particularly troubling. This is a deadly policy that bars overseas health clinics from receiving U.S. foreign aid if they use their own money to educate their communities on where to access safe abortion. This becomes especially worrisome in light of the secretary of State’s role in overseeing the Office of Global Women’s Issues.

He also opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and co-sponsored legislation against marriage equality, as well as legislation that would allow discrimination against LGBTI people. With reproductive rights under attack across the world and violence against LGBTI people on the rise, the secretary of State must be committed to confronting discrimination and advancing human rights for all.

It is up to the Senate to make human rights a top priority when considering whether to confirm Pompeo to be the next secretary of State. We cannot allow the administration to turn a blind eye toward people’s fundamental rights.

Joanne Lin is national director of advocacy and governmental affairs at Amnesty International USA.

Tags Donald Trump Mike Pompeo

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