53 organisations call for speedy passage of proposed resolution before Congress to re-evaluate US-Saudi relations in light of its human rights record

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Martin Falbisoner via Wikimedia Commons

12 April 2023. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and 52 other human rights organisations welcome the submission of resolution S.Res.109 to the United States Senate. If passed, this resolution would require a report from Saudi Arabia on its human rights practices, and would possibly lead to a long-awaited re-evaluation of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

The undersigned organisations [1] write to express our strong support for S.Res.109, Senator Chris Murphy and Senator Mike Lee’s resolution requesting a report on human rights conditions in Saudi Arabia under Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act (22 U.S.C. § 2304). The Biden administration has repeatedly promised a re-evaluation of the U.S.-Saudi relationship: during the presidential campaignonce in office, and most recently in October 2022 following the decision of OPEC+, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, to decrease its oil production, thereby helping finance Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That re-evaluation has not taken place, forcing Congress to take up a needed debate. A Section 502B(c) resolution, if passed in the Senate, will reassert Congress’s crucial oversight role, require the executive branch to document the litany of destabilising human rights abuses carried out by the Saudi government and justify its continued security assistance to Saudi Arabia despite these abuses, and force a long overdue public conversation about the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

Civil society reporting and successive State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices mandated under Section 502B have recorded widespread human rights abuses by the government of Saudi Arabia [2]. Many of those meet the definition of gross violations of human rights under Section 502B, including executions for nonviolent offenses, forced disappearances, torture, mistreatment of detainees, and arbitrary arrest and detention, among others. State Department reporting also details continued discrimination against women, a lack of accountability for gender-based violence, and severe restrictions on religious freedoms. Outside of the country, U.S. government and civil society reports have documented widespread civilian harm resulting from the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, including possible war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law; and numerous cases of transnational repression, including abductions, forced repatriations, and intimidation of dissidents outside of Saudi Arabia, most notably the murder of Washington Post columnist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi.

In light of this track record, S.Res.109 represents a welcome revitalisation of Section 502B as a tool for congressional oversight of U.S. security assistance. If passed in the Senate, the resolution would require a report from the Department of State on Saudi Arabia’s human rights practices within thirty days of passage. The resolution and the debate it generates would open the door to follow-on congressional action, including the possibility of an eventual joint resolution to restrict certain U.S. security assistance to Saudi Arabia based on congressional concerns. Use of the 502B(c) mechanism fills a critical gap in current oversight mechanisms such as the Leahy Law [3] and Arms Export Control Act [4], providing Congress with a flexible tool to assert human rights oversight for U.S. arms sales and security assistance.

It is long past time for a public conversation about the U.S.-Saudi relationship and a reassertion of congressional oversight. Our organisations support this resolution and strongly urge its swift passage.

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  • Co-signatories

    1. Action Corps
    2. Alliance of South Asians Taking Action
    3. ALQST for Human Rights
    4. American Friends Service Committee
    5. Amnesty International USA
    6. Antiwar.com
    7. Arms Control Association
    8. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    9. Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
    10. Center for International Policy (CIP)
    11. Center for Victims of Torture
    12. Church of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding & Policy
    13. Churches for Middle East Peace
    14. Common Defense
    15. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
    16. Defense Priorities Initiative
    17. Demand Progress Action
    18. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
    19. Environmentalists Against War
    20. Foreign Policy for America
    21. Freedom Forward
    22. Freedom House
    23. Freedom Initiative
    24. Friends Committee on National Legislation
    25. Global Ministries of the Christian Church
    26. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    27. Human Rights First
    28. Human Rights Watch
    29. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    30. Just Foreign Policy
    31. MADRE
    32. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
    33. MENA Rights Group
    34. MPower Change Action Fund
    35. Muslim Counterpublics Lab
    36. Mwatana for Human Rights
    37. Peace Action
    38. PEN America
    39. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
    40. Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
    41. Reprieve US
    42. Saferworld (USA)
    43. Shadow World Investigations
    44. The Libertarian Institute
    45. United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries
    46. Veterans for American Ideals
    47. Western Mass CODEPINK
    48. Win Without War
    49. Women for Weapons Trade Transparency
    50. World BEYOND War
    51. Yemen Freedom Council
    52. Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation
    53. Yemeni Alliance Committee

  • Member organisations - Saudi Arabia
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    Saudi Arabia
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    Saudi Arabia Bahrain United Arab Emirates Iraq Iran Kuwait Oman Qatar Syria Yemen
  • Member organisations - USA
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    001 646 395 7103
    United States
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