Precinct 333

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Call For Saudi Sanctions

By no stretch of the imagination is Saudi Arabia a beacon of freedom. It is a repressive theocracy that fails to meet the basic standards of human rights necessary to be considered a civilized nation. That we receive half-hearted support in the war on terrorism is hardly grounds for our turning a blind eye to the religious repression that goes on there. Saudi Arabia strictly prohibits all public religious expression other than those that follow the government's interpretation of Islam, and regularly detain individuals who violate religious laws under cruel and demeaning conditions. And even though Saudi Arabia was labeled a “country of particular concern” by the State Department’s religious freedom watchdog, that designation carried with it no sanction. Some folks want to change that.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, the [U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)] recommended that the U.S. identify Saudi government officials responsible for severe violations and not allow them entry into the country. It should also bar officials who propagated around the world "an ideology that explicitly promotes hate, intolerance, and human rights violations."

The government should also issue a demarche (warning), urging Riyadh to stop funding or other support for literature or other activity promoting hate, intolerance, and human rights violations, "including the distribution of such materials in the United States and elsewhere outside of Saudi Arabia."

Further, the U.S. should not issue licenses to export "dual-use" items - materials that could be used for both military and civilian purposes -- to any Saudi government agency responsible for severe abuses, it recommended.

Last year, shackles, leg-irons "and other items that could be used to perpetrate human rights violations" were among goods exported from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia.

"As world events of the past several years have confirmed, ensuring that governments respect freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief both advances our strategic interests and is a vital component of securing broader freedoms," Bansal said.

The president’s recent inaugural address dealt with freedom around the world. Let’s continue to promote such freedom by placing these limited sanctions on the Saudis. After all, we must hold our allies to a standard higher than the one to which we hold our enemies.


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