The issue of Human Rights is a major sore-point in the US-Saudi relationship. By American–and most Western–standards, Saudi Arabia does not provide basic human rights to its citizens. It falls short of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948. Saudi Arabia, in fact, abstained from voting on the proclaimation (which is not, in fact, legally binding), and has not accepted related articles and instruments of international law with the exception of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which it ratified in 2000.

Saudi Arabia is not alone in its resistance to the Universal Declaration. There have been several attempts–originating from around the Islamic world–to propagate a separate “Universal Declaration of Islamic Human Rights“. These efforts are the result of a belief that the UDHR is Western and secularly oriented, not taking into account Shariah law that motivates, if not always governs, the behavior of 1.3 billion people.

This, of course, raises the difficult issue of “cultural relativism”. The UN itself is not eager to accept separate interpretations of human rights to suit cultural sensitivities. But arguments continue.

In the meantime, both the United States and the United Nations continue to criticize Saudi adherence to these universal rights.

As required by the US Congress, the Department of State publishes annual reports on various aspects of human rights in every country around the world (excepting the US itself). Numerous human rights organizations do likewise (and many do include the US).

The US Dept. of State reports on various issues in Saudi Arabia include:

Religious Freedom (Report for 2005)

Human Rights (Report for 2004)

Religious Freedom (Report for 2004)

Trafficking in Persons (Report for 2004)

Report on Global Ant-Semitism (Report for 2004)

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