67 U.S. Members of Congress Send Bipartisan Letter to King Salman of Saudi Arabia

4 March 2015 – Washington, DC – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), in collaboration with Amnesty International USA and 15 other NGOs, endorse the letter sent by 67 U.S. Members of Congress to King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud calling on him to enact human rights and democratic reforms. The letter, sent by Representatives James McGovern (D-MA) and Peter Roskam (R-IL), coincides with Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Riyadh this week.

The letter proposes a strong list of changes to current Saudi practices and laws, including reforms to the judicial system and modifications to laws which effectively criminalize free expression. The Congressmen ask that King Salman to end the ban on women driving and reform the guardianship system, which legally subordinates women to the will of male family members. The letter also requests changes to recent “anti-terrorism” laws which have further restricted the activity of civil society members and peaceful government critics.

“King Salman has a long list of reforms to implement in order to get the Saudi government in line with basic human rights norms,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “Nevertheless, we are pleased that dozens of U.S. Members of Congress are paying attention to the actions of the Saudi government and advocating for the release of political prisoners and an end to discrimination against women and minority groups in the kingdom.”

Notably, the letter calls for the release of several prominent human rights activists, including the imprisoned human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair and activist Raif Badawi. “Saudi Arabia’s new King has a critical opportunity to enact major human rights reforms and free prisoners of conscience such as blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu Al-Khair,” said Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “Sixty-seven members of Congress have already raised their voices in support of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Now, Secretary Kerry must do the same when he visits the Kingdom tomorrow.”

Secretary of State Kerry will meet with King Salman and other members of the Saudi government in Riyadh on 5 March 2015.