U.S. Statement at the Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia

U.S. Statement at the Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia
Mark Cassayre
31st Session,
Geneva, November 5, 2018

 As prepared for delivery

The United States welcomes the delegation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

We recommend Saudi Arabia:

  1. More narrowly define the terms “terrorist,” “terrorism,” and “public order” for purposes of Counterterrorism Law and anti-Cyber Crime law prosecutions such that they not criminalize acts of expression, association, or peaceful assembly. If an individual peacefully criticizes a government policy or attends a demonstration without committing a violent act, he/she should not be tried as a terrorist.
  1. Review cases of persons who have been detained and imprisoned to ensure that they have not been jailed for activities related to peaceful assembly, association, or expression, and allow them to travel freely domestically and internationally once they have been cleared of charges, released, or served their sentences. We note with concern reports that numerous Saudi citizens remain detained solely for criticizing government policies or performance. Their cases should be reviewed by the competent authorities.
  1. Fully reinstate the necessary facilities for diplomats wishing to attend trials and court sessions involving Saudi nationals as previously granted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2013.

We commend the Kingdom’s initiatives to broaden societal and economic participation for Saudi Arabian women.  We remain, however, concerned about guardianship laws and credible reports of the forcible return of women to Saudi Arabia after these women have entered the sovereign jurisdiction of other countries.

We are deeply disturbed and saddened by the preliminary results of Saudi Arabia’s investigation that Jamal Khashoggi was killed on the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.  We condemn this premeditated killing.  Saudi Arabia’s announcement of holding those identified as being involved accountable and continuing its investigation is an important first step toward finding the answers the world deserves.  It is absolutely necessary that Saudi Arabia conduct thorough, conclusive, and transparent investigations that lead to all facts being made public in a timely manner.  Justice must be carried out in accordance with due process.

We are concerned the kafala/sponsorship system leaves migrant workers vulnerable to abuse.  We also note with concern the arrests of activists, intellectuals, and clerics, among others.

While we note there have been some positive steps, we remain concerned that religious tolerance and freedom of worship are severely limited in Saudi Arabia, including severe restrictions on private group worship.  We are concerned that the government conflates “private” worship – protected under the law – with individual worship, which is not consistent with religious practice for Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or most other religions.