May 6, 2021

Ukraine Breaking News

Ukraine Breaking News | The Latest News In Ukraine

Raif Badawi is still in prison for a series of blog posts. The United States has been giving Saudi Arabia a free pass for too long

Raif Badawi is still in prison for a series of blog posts.  The United States has been giving Saudi Arabia a free pass for too long

For years, successive US administrations have granted Saudi Arabia a free pass to harass, arrest and even execute those who do not accept the government’s official interpretation of Hanbali Sunni Islam. One such case is peaceful blogger Raif Badawi, who is serving a 10-year sentence for a series of blog posts calling for freedom of religion or belief in the kingdom.

Despite years of international concern over the case, Badawi remains in prison. The Biden administration is recalibrating US-Saudi relations and has indicated that human rights will be at the heart of its foreign policy goals. As such, it should react strongly to the ongoing persecution of Badawi and other religious dissidents in Saudi Arabia, including the enforcement of new Khashoggi visa bans where applicable.

Badawi is not the only one who has suffered serious violations of his religious freedom. Recently freed activist Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested in 2018 following a peaceful defense of religious protection laws. She was allegedly subjected to torture in prison, pressured to sign a false confession and remains subject to a travel and media ban. Shiite Sheikh Mohammed bin Hassan al-Habib remains in prison after demanding more rights for Shia Muslims. Poet Ashraf Fayadh is also still in prison with an eight-year sentence for questioning religion and spreading atheist thinking.

Roger Lemoyne – ReduxEnsaf Haidar at her home in a small basement apartment in Sherbrooke City, Quebec on January 19, 2015. She continued to support her husband’s release with the help of Amnesty International. She was accepted as a refugee in Canada.

Even among these striking cases, that of Badawi stands out. Sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, Badawi was refused access to essential medicines, thrown into solitary confinement and denied contact with his family. In January 2015, he received 50 public lashes in front of a Jeddah mosque.

The continued detention of Badawi by the Saudi government is a test case for the Biden administration’s willingness to use the new “Khashoggi ban”, which allows the State Department to deny US visas to those who “repress, harass , monitor, threaten or harm journalists, “activists or other people perceived as dissidents for their work.” The Saudi government’s contempt for these serious American concerns destabilizes US-Saudi relations. It also undermines social and economic reform efforts ongoing initiated by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in recent years.

Giving the Saudi government a free pass to violate freedom of religion or belief without consequences is not a sustainable US policy. The future of our relations must be based on the respect and protection of internationally recognized human rights and on the political inclusion of dissidents who might otherwise adopt more radical positions. An inclusive vision for Saudi Arabia’s future would undoubtedly accelerate a recovery from the economic effects of COVID-19 and spur more international trade investment in the kingdom.

As such, the Biden administration should stop this troubling trend of impunity in three ways. First, it should lift the waiver of sanctions to which Saudi Arabia would otherwise be subject as a designated country of particular concern (CCP) for violations of religious freedom. Second, it should hold senior Saudi officials directly accountable for serious violations of religious freedom using the Khashoggi ban and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Finally, President Joe Biden and Secretary Antony Blinken should publicly ask the Saudi Arabia, during this month of Ramadan, to grant leniency to Raif Badawi and stop persecuting peaceful dissidents with false legal charges.

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