Progressive U.S. lawmakers including Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Katie Porter on Tuesday joined a call for the Biden administration to take steps to form a national institution that would monitor and promote human rights within the United States, noting that the U.S. considers itself an arbiter of human rights standards across the globe.
The lawmakers sent the letter ahead of second Summit for Democracy, which the U.S. it set to host this week and at which representatives from countries around the world will be asked to “highlight specific initiatives that reflect their commitment to strengthening human rights and democracy domestically and through multilateral cooperation.”
A National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in the U.S., said the lawmakers, would allow the government to promote and monitor the implementation of human rights obligations, provide a public forum for the investigation of violations, establish mechanisms to advise and inform all branches of government on meeting human rights standards, and provide guidance to state and local human rights commissions.
“The United States should be a role model for protecting human rights, and that work starts here at home,” said Porter (D-Calif.). “A National Human Rights Institution will help us lead the world in promoting civil liberties and championing government accountability. I hope President [Joe] Biden will use this opportunity to reaffirm our global commitments and rebuild our country’s reputation as a strong voice for universal human rights.”
Other signatories of the letter include Democratic Reps. James McGovern of Massachusetts, Cori Bush of Missouri, Jill Tokuda of Hawaii, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C.
The letter called on the Biden administration to form a commission that would study the creation of an NHRI.
The lawmakers joined a coalition of 85 civil society groups, led by the ACLU, which in December called for the creation of an NHRI that would “offer a meaningful path to encourage U.S. institutions… to adhere to human rights commitments that our government has made and to which we routinely call on other countries to adhere.”
“The best way for the United States to lead on human rights is by the power of example,” said McGovern. “By establishing a presidential commission to explore creating a National Human Rights Institution for the U.S., the president will be taking an important, concrete step toward ensuring that we live up to the standards we expect of other countries. The U.S. must walk the walk on human rights—not just talk the talk.”
The lawmakers noted that democracies around the world, including many U.S. allies, have established NHRIs to hold their own governments accountable for adhering to human rights standards domestically and abroad.
Originally published at Commondreams.org.