Press Release

June 28, 2022
Cardin Calls on Biden to Use His Upcoming Trip to Saudi Arabia to Prioritize Human Rights, Accountability and Israel Relations
“I urge you to use this upcoming visit to … make clear to the world that we can indeed conduct a realistic foreign policy that is consistent with our values.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, is urging President Joe Biden to use his July trip to Saudi Arabia to “elevate human rights issues” in his discussions with this important regional partner. Cardin has been a leader in Congress on human rights, using every opportunity to ensure human rights, good governance and transparency are integrated into America’s foreign policy.

“As you well know, the current human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is increasingly repressive. The necessary resetting of the relationship should happen in tandem with frank discussion of issues that impede our having a more robust relationship,” Senator Cardin wrote to President Biden. “I urge you to continue to make clear to the Saudi monarchy, and to the Crown Prince, that accountability [for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi] will remain a top U.S. priority, and that U.S. policymakers will continue to hold individuals accountable and seek Global Magnitsky sanctions against individuals directly engaged in serious extraterritorial counter-dissident activities.”

Cardin added: “As the principal Democratic sponsor of the Israel Relations Normalization Act – enacted in March in the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill – I believe the U.S. must build on the success of the Abraham Accords, which means persuading Saudi Arabia to join its Gulf neighbors in normalizing relations with Israel.”

The full text of the letter follows.

June 27, 2022

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I write to urge you to elevate human rights issues before and during your upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia. I recognize that the United States has an important strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia, one based on a long history of cooperation on regional security issues and energy supply. I believe that the American President must and should engage directly with leaders of countries with whom we have difficult and complex relationships. As you well know, the current human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is increasingly repressive. The necessary resetting of the relationship should happen in tandem with frank discussion of issues that impede our having a more robust relationship.

Your commitment to centering human rights and our values in our foreign policy is commendable. You demonstrated that with the public release last year of the intelligence community’s assessment of the horrific murder of U.S. resident and Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, which implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the crime. I urge you to continue to make clear to the Saudi monarchy, and to the Crown Prince, that accountability will remain a top U.S. priority, and that U.S. policymakers will continue to hold individuals accountable and seek Global Magnitsky sanctions against individuals directly engaged in serious extraterritorial counter-dissident activities.

The Saudi government can demonstrate its willingness to build a better relationship with the United States by halting its targeting of dissidents in exile, and releasing political prisoners. Important first steps would include resolution of the cases of U.S. persons that are currently imprisoned and under a travel ban including Walid Fitaihi, Aziza al-Youssef, Bader al-Ibrahim, and Salah al-Haidar. This should extend to include award-winning women’s rights advocate Loujain al-Hathloul and blogger Raif Badawi. I also urge you to raise the cases of those wrongfully detained on politically motivated charges, including humanitarian aid worker Abdelrahman al-Sadhan, Muslim scholar Salman al-Odah and Salem al-Muzaini. Then there are Sarah and Omar al-Jabri, two children who have been jailed to pressure their father, former Saudi intelligence advisor and longtime U.S. ally, Saad al-Jabri.

Lastly, as the principal Democratic sponsor of the Israel Relations Normalization Act – enacted in March in the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Bill – I believe the U.S. must build on the success of the Abraham Accords, which means persuading Saudi Arabia to join its Gulf neighbors in normalizing relations with Israel. In tandem with a continued ceasefire in Yemen, Saudi Arabia can confirm its commitment to advancing peace and stability in the wider region.

I urge you to use this upcoming visit to pursue amicable resolutions to these longstanding areas of concern, and make clear to the world that we can indeed conduct a realistic foreign policy that is consistent with our values.

Thank you for your consideration on these important issues.

    Sincerely,

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