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United Nations
Saudi Arabia was due to submit its initial reports on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in the course of 1998. In April Saudi Arabia reportedly cited its ratification of these conventions, in 1996 and 1997, to successfully lobby for its removal from the Commission on Human Rights’ confidential “1503" review procedure. Saudi Arabia was also one of fifty-one countries that criticized the Commission on Human Rights’ April 3 resolution “calling upon all states that still maintain the death establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty.”

European Union
The European Parliament, in its February 19 Resolution on the 54th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, called on the Council of the European Union to “support initiatives to combat the ill-treatment of detainees.” The resolution noted that abuse of detainees “has recently been the subject of reports, including in such countries as Saudi Arabia and Kenya.”

United Kingdom
Saudi Arabia remained a major United Kingdom trading partner and market for arms exports, and the U.K. continued to subordinate human rights concerns to its military and commercial interests in the kingdom. In January the Parliamentary Human Rights Group and Redress Trust issued a joint report on torture in Saudi Arabia which charged the U.K. had “consistently failed to protect and assist its nationals adequately when they become victims of torture in Saudi Arabia and may even have acquiesced in providing the regime with the instruments it uses to commit torture.” Responding to questions in Parliament’s House of Lords on the report, Minister Baroness Symons explained the government’s position, saying the government “must consider the most effective way in which to argue human rights issues where there are different cultures and different religious practices and observation, and where the attitudes towards human rights are very different from our own.”

During his first major state visit to Britain, in September Crown Prince Abdullah met with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Prime Minister Blair, and received the Insignia of an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

United States
Saudi Arabia provided a major market for U.S. arms and civilian goods, a base for over 5,000 U.S. troops and for U.S. planes patrolling the “no-fly zone” in southern Iraq, and was a major force in the oil industry. In 1997 U.S. exports to Saudi Arabia reached U.S.$8.5 billion, while Saudi petroleum exports to the U.S. were more than U.S. $10 billion. U.S. direct investment in Saudi Arabia was estimated at more than U.S. $8 billion. The increasingly close strategic partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia was not, however, accompanied by public candor in assessing Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. For example, U.S. concern over religious freedom in Saudi Arabia appeared limited to gaining guarantees of American citizens’ right to private non-Muslim religious practice. Assessing Saudi Arabia’s performance on religious freedom during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor John Shattuck testified that “The Secretary of State, Ambassador Wyche Fowler, and other United States officials have encouraged the Saudi Government at the highest levels to make further progress on religious freedom,” and noted “as a positive development that Defense Minister Sultan stated publicly last fall that the Saudi Government does not prohibit non-Muslim worship in the home.” Human rights concerns were not on the announced agenda during Crown Prince Abdullah’s first state visit to the U.S. in September, when he met with President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Secretary of State Albright, and several other high-ranking U.S. officials.

The U.S.-Saudi cooperation continued in the investigation of the 1996 al-Khobar bombing that killed nineteen U.S. military personnel in June 1996. Saudi national Hani ‘Abd al-Rahim al-Sayegh, who had been brought to the U.S. from Canada in connection with that case, remained in federal custody in Atlanta, pending execution of an order for his removal from the U.S. As of late September a federal district court had still not set a date to hear oral arguments on al-Sayegh’s habeas corpus appeal filed in January. According to al-Sayegh’s lawyer, the appeal challenged al-Sayegh’s detention and the removal order on the grounds that it was based on secret evidence, and al-Sayegh was never given a chance to present his case before a judge. The Justice Department also did not rule out the extraditing al-Sayegh to Saudi Arabia, despite U.S. obligations under the Convention against Torture, which prohibits returning someone to a country where that person would be at risk of torture or ill-treatment.







Israel, The Occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Authority Territories

Saudi Arabia





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