Human Rights Must Be at the Top of the Biden Agenda, Says Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
November 10, 2020, New York - Americans have voted in record numbers, ushering in a new Presidential Administration. The Biden Administration should champion human rights in the United States and globally. It should prioritize undoing the damage done to social justice over the past four years, and reform longstanding domestic and foreign policies that have harmed human rights. The United States has never fully lived up to human rights ideals, and the new Administration has the opportunity to put human rights first.
At this pivotal moment, the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute calls for the incoming Administration to ensure the fundamental human rights and dignity of all – including Black communities, Indigenous peoples, women, people with disabilities, Muslims, LGBTQI+ people, immigrants and refugees, people living in poverty, and those living outside the United States who are impacted by its foreign policies.
The Trump Administration’s Regressive Policies Inflicted Significant Harm and Must be Undone
The past four years highlight how calculated disregard for human rights at home and abroad disrupts lives, fuels fear and insecurity at our university, and leads to injustice in our communities and around the world.
Trump cozied up to authoritarian leaders around the world and supported the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition’s disastrous war in Yemen. The U.S. has avoided accountability for military actions abroad and issued sanctions against International Criminal Court officials. Trump repeatedly attacked the press, a vital watchdog of democracy. Further, the Trump Administration has attempted to weaken human rights through its ‘Commission on Unalienable Rights,’ and has retreated from human rights commitments.
The Trump Administration pursued policies that are anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, hostile to civil rights protections for African Americans, women, and LGBTQI+ people. Judicial nominations and high-ranking administration appointees reflect a white supremacist agenda, which is echoed in presidential and vice-presidential statements. The Muslim Ban and the Administration’s approach to immigration have separated families, contributed to inhumane treatment, and promoted xenophobia. The limited social protections that did exist, including healthcare, were rolled back. Reproductive rights have been under assault. Environmental protections have been dismantled.
COVID-19 has spotlighted systemic discrimination, the lack of a social safety net, and longstanding inequality in the United States. While the United States has historically espoused support for international human rights principles, government rhetoric has never translated into laws and policies that recognize or protect the full panoply of civil, political, economic, and social rights.
Recommendations to the Biden Administration
The Human Rights Institute reiterates our longstanding calls for the United States to prioritize human rights. We call on the Biden Administration to:
- Pursue federal policies that address anti-Black racism and promote equality and inclusion, consistent with human rights treaties the United States has ratified;
- Adopt national laws and policies that promote the human rights to water and sanitation;
- End the war-based approach to national security. Repudiate the notion that the U.S. may engage in extrajudicial killings, and ensure accountability and redress for civilian casualties from U.S. military operations abroad;
- End support for the Saudi and Emirati coalition’s military intervention in Yemen and work toward peace in Yemen;
- Support the work of the International Criminal Court to advance accountability globally, including by revoking sanctions against ICC officials, and by withdrawing the Executive Order on Blocking Property of Certain Persons Associated with the International Criminal Court;
- Uphold at home and abroad the right to free expression and promote a free press, including by improving journalists’ access to White House briefings and encouraging robust evidence-based media reporting;
- Disband the Commission on Unalienable Rights and rescind any directives based upon its findings;
- Commit to constructive engagement with UN and regional human rights mechanisms, grounded in globally agreed-upon human rights norms.
With our colleagues and allies at Columbia, across the country and the world, the Human Rights Institute will continue to fight for inclusive, transparent, and accountable governance that aims to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights for all.
This statement represents the views of the Human Rights Institute and does not purport to represent the views of Columbia Law School or the University.