Senators sent a letter to US President Joe Biden, prior to his scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia on July 15 and 16, calling for the immediate release of human rights defenders held in Saudi jails.
The letter stressed the need for human rights to be placed “at the centre of his meetings” in the kingdom.
The senators likened Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Russian President Vladimir Putin for “ignoring basic human rights and American interests,” and said that “shifting our dependence from one autocratic leader to another, particularly because of our addiction to fossil fuels, will not solve the problem.”
In their letter, the senators added, “We cannot allow Mohammed bin Salman to believe that he can rule with impunity,” and urged Biden to pursue for the release of the dissidents mentioned in the US State Department’s report on Saudi Arabia on human rights practices, or at least provide compelling evidence of crimes.
They also stressed the need for lifting arbitrary travel bans on human rights defenders and others, including those imposed on US citizens,
ending illegal state surveillance and hostage-taking and other forms of transnational repression, especially on US soil, not helping Saudi nationals facing criminal charges abroad to evade justice, ending the guardianship of a man over a woman, imposing a moratorium on executions, and maintaining the ceasefire in Yemen.
The letter further pointed to the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which Mohammed bin Salman himself ordered, according to US intelligence agencies, saying it is “the most notorious and egregious manifestation of a regime that routinely intimidates, monitors and harass opponents at home and abroad.”
In January 2022, the FBI highlighted how the Kingdom targets Saudi dissidents located inside the United States, a flagrant violation of our national sovereignty, the letter reads.
The letter was signed by Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Richard Blumenthal.