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Bipartisan Resolution Urging Saudi Arabia to Release Detained Women’s Rights Activists Passes in the House

Washington, DC – Tonight, Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), David Cicilline (D-RI-01), Ann Wagner (R-MO-02), and Susan Wild’s (D-PA-07) bipartisan resolution condemning Saudi Arabia’s continued jailing and alleged abuse of women’s rights activists was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The resolution, which has 28 additional co-sponsors, urges the Saudi government to immediately release the prisoners and hold the abusers accountable, and calls on the U.S. government to sanction any Saudi officials found responsible for violating the rights of the activists.

“With this resolution we’re standing up for the brave women who have been viciously abused and jailed, just because they were fighting for their basic human rights,” said Rep. Frankel. “Saudi officials must end this crackdown, immediately release the imprisoned human rights defenders, and hold the responsible parties accountable.”

Since May 2018, the Government of Saudi Arabia has arrested prominent women’s rights advocates. It’s been reported that many of these prisoners have been subjected to abuse, including sexual violence, beatings, electric shocks, and sleep deprivation.

Also on Monday, Members of Congress sent a bicameral, bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Pompeo, urging him to insist the Saudi government immediately and unconditionally release the prisoners.

“Women’s rights are human rights, and it’s imperative that the United States continue to advocate for victims of human rights abuses and the brave champions who stand up for them,” said Rep. Cicilline. “Saudi officials should immediately release these activists and take real steps to prevent human rights abuses in their country.”

“I am pleased that my colleagues in the House have come together to show overwhelming support for freeing women’s rights advocates who have been unjustly imprisoned by Saudi officials,” said Rep. Wagner. “These women have bravely fought for fundamental rights, and, after over a year of imprisonment, it is more important than ever that we fight for them. We must hold accountable Saudi Arabia's justice system and corrupt, dishonest officials, especially in the wake of serious allegations of abuse from inside the prison.”

“Activists in Saudi Arabia advocating on behalf of girls and women are facing abhorrent treatment – from detention to alleged abuse and travel bans. As a member of the foreign affairs committee, I am proud to advocate on behalf of the human rights defenders putting their safety and comfort at risk to fight for fair treatment for women around the world,” said Rep. Wild. “Our resolution sends the important message that we stand by these women and I’m pleased to see it reach the House floor.”

In part, the resolution states:

(1) reaffirms that promoting human rights and democracy has long been a bedrock of United States foreign policy, including advancing the rights and empowerment of women and girls;

(2) condemns the Government of Saudi Arabia’s continued detention and alleged abuse of women’s rights advocates jailed for peacefully exercising their human rights;

(3) urges Government of Saudi Arabia officials to immediately and unconditionally release the imprisoned women’s rights advocates and other political prisoners, and hold accountable those involved in perpetrating abuses;

(4) urges Government of Saudi Arabia officials to end the male guardianship system that restricts the ability of Saudi women to make decisions about their lives; and

(5) calls on the United States Government to—

(A) continue publicly and privately demanding the release of individuals wrongfully detained;

(B) use the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (subtitle F of title XII of Public Law 114–328) to identify and impose travel and financial restrictions on all Government of Saudi Arabia officials responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights;

(C) document relevant details of alleged torture and abuse in future annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices; and

(D) prioritize human rights, including rights of women, as a key component of the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Full text of the resolution can be found here.